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Keeping Your Teen Away From Gangs

Gang violence in schools has become so prevalent that schools now have special police officers assigned to deal with it. Being aware of gang involvement or gang intimidation is necessary to keep your adolescent safe and involved with peers who are positive influences. Adolescents looking for acceptance will often look for negative attention just as readily as they seek positive attention.

Adolescents often want to join a gang because of certain issues (e.g., racism, poverty, loneliness, media influences, etc.). Sometimes, they might be tempted to join a gang because they were not closely moderated by their parents and feel that they have the freedom to do the unlawful things gangs commit. In any event, here is how you can prevent your adolescent from joining a gang.

Tips for Parents—

1. Be a positive influence for your adolescent. Providing a strong parental role model is considered the best way to help your adolescent through difficult situations.

2. Promote positive alternatives such as sports, music or drama programs for after school and on weekends.

3. Encourage your adolescent to create a positive relationship with a trusted adult at his school. Make sure he knows there is someone at school he can go to if he is being intimidated by gang members.

4. Enroll your adolescent in conflict resolution classes if they are offered in your community. Contact your local police department gang unit for more information on how to deal with gangs.

5. Gang involvement almost always includes drug or alcohol abuse. Be prepared to test your adolescent for drug use if you suspect there is a problem. At-home drug-testing kits can be purchased from your local drugstore.

6. Give as much attention as possible to your adolescent. Gang involvement sometimes starts because adolescents aren't getting the attention they need at home. Be your adolescent's biggest fan! If your adolescent feels supported, valued and respected in his house, he may be less likely to try and meet those emotional needs elsewhere.

7. Help your adolescent focus on his goals for the future. Ask him to think about the bigger picture. This is especially important to focus on until adolescents can set strong future plans for themselves.

8. Inspire your adolescent to finish school. Young people who successfully participate and complete education have the greatest opportunity to develop into reasonable adults.

9. Keep your youngster from doing unlawful things before they become used to committing bad actions. It can be difficult to change a youngster's mind, so this is a very important step.

10. Provide strong and loving family support for your adolescent so that he or she will not be forced to search for basic needs from a gang.

11. Set an appointment to meet with the school principal or vice principal immediately. Sometimes school authorities are unaware of a volatile situation until it's too late.

12. Talk with other parents about keeping your community free of gangs.

13. Tell your adolescent to avoid gang members. If your adolescent feels intimidated, let him know that it is okay to walk or run away from these gangs.

14. Treat the problem seriously. If your adolescent is fearful of someone at school, contact school authorities or the police to deal with the situation immediately. Keeping your adolescent out of danger is your first priority.

15. Work with police and other agencies. Report all suspicious activities.

Tips for Teens—

1. Accept responsibility. Do your part to make your school safe by following all school rules, including behavior codes, dress codes, and safety rules.

2. Do not join gangs, hang out with gang members, wear gang colors or gang-type clothing, or use gang symbols or hand signs. This is a problem of image. If you look like a gang member or are seen with a gang member, rival gangs cannot tell the difference between you and the real gang member. You have a very good chance of being the innocent target of violent gang behavior.

3. Encourage your mother and/or father to become involved in your school by asking them to visit the school, meet your teachers and other school staff, and help with school activities. Take all school handouts, notices, and publications home to keep your parents informed of opportunities to be involved.

4. Never carry a weapon of any kind to school. The risk of harm to yourself and your classmates is too great. Any instrument used to attack another person can be considered a weapon, but firearms pose the greatest risk, multiplying the potential for serious injury and death.

5. Report to your parents and school authorities any incidents of crime and violence such as weapons at school, theft, attacks on people or property, and any kind of bullying or harassment. Telling is not tattling--it is one of the most effective ways to reduce crime and violence on your campus and in the community.

6. Talk and watch carefully. Travel with a group or with friends to and from school and school activities. Always be aware of your surroundings.

7. Work with your classmates to develop a school survey of student attitudes about drugs, crime, violence, and fear. Find out where and when crime, violence, or intimidation usually occurs on your campus.

8. Report your findings to the school administrators. Work with school staff, your parents, and other students to develop and put into practice at your school the following programs, if your school does not already have them:
  • A conflict mediation program designed to help students settle disputes and to diffuse potential fight situations.
  • A Crime Stoppers program for reporting campus crime. Call 800-245-0009 for more information.
  • A peer assistance program to help teach students how to be good peer helpers and to help welcome and integrate new students into the student body.
  • A student-initiated program that empowers students to take positive action to prevent school violence.
  • A WeTip program, which is a national, toll-free hotline (800-78-CRIME; 800-782-7463) that receives information regarding gang violence or any major crime.
  • An overall school safety plan that includes behavior codes that are publicized widely to students and parents.

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