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School Safety Topics

Violence and Gangs

Parents, teachers and administrators expect schools to be safe havens of learning, and fortunately, Maryland schools are relatively safe. However, acts of violence can be dangerous and disruptive, and therefore, are unacceptable in our schools. In particular, the presence of gangs presents a special concern for those responsible for keeping our students safe.

Understanding the Issue

School violence is a subset of youth violence, a broader public health problem. Violence is the intentional use of physical force or power, against another person, group or community, with the behavior likely to cause physical or psychological harm. Youth Violence typically includes persons between the ages of 10 and 24, although pathways to youth violence can begin in early childhood.

Examples of violent behavior include:

  • Bullying
  • Fighting (e.g., punching, slapping, kicking)
  • Weapon use
  • Electronic aggression
  • Gang violence

School violence occurs:

  • On school property
  • On the way to or from school
  • During a school-sponsored event
  • On the way to or from a school-sponsored event

(Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

  • How should parents talk to their children about school violence?
    Suggested Points to Emphasize When Talking to Children
    • Schools are safe places. School staff work with parents and public safety providers (local police and fire departments, emergency responders, hospitals, etc.) to keep you safe.
    • The school building is safe because … (cite specific school procedures).
    • We all play a role in the school safety. Be observant and let an adult know if you see or hear something that makes you feel uncomfortable, nervous or frightened.
    • There is a difference between reporting, tattling or gossiping. You can provide important information that may prevent harm either directly or anonymously by telling a trusted adult what you know or hear
    • Don’t dwell on the worst possibilities. Although there is no absolute guarantee that something bad will never happen, it is important to understand the difference between the possibility of something happening and the probability that it will affect our school.
    • Senseless violence is hard for everyone to understand. Doing things that you enjoy, sticking to your normal routine, and being with friends and family help make us feel better and keep us from worrying about the event.
    • Sometimes people do bad things that hurt others. They may be unable to handle their anger, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or suffering from mental illness. Adults (parents, teachers, police officers, doctors, faith leaders) work very hard to get those people help and keep them from hurting others. It is important for all of us to know how to get help if we feel really upset or angry and to stay away from drugs and alcohol.
    • Stay away from guns and other weapons. Tell an adult if you know someone has a gun. Access to guns is one of the leading risk factors for deadly violence.
    • Violence is never a solution to personal problems. Students can be part of the positive solution by participating in anti-violence programs at school, learning conflict mediation skills, and seeking help from an adult if they or a peer is struggling with anger, depression, or other emotions they cannot control.

      Source: National Association of School Psychologists
  • What exactly is a gang?
    The Maryland Criminal Law Code 9-801 defines a criminal gang as a “group or association of three or more persons whose members: (1) individually or collectively engage in a pattern of criminal gang activity; (2) have as one of their primary objectives or activities the commission of one or more underlying crimes, including acts by juveniles that would be underlying crimes if committed as adults; and (3) have in common an overt or covert organizational or command structure.”

    Source: 2013 Maryland Gang Threat Assessment
  • How prevalent are gangs in Maryland?
    Gangs that are present in Maryland include street gangs, prison gangs, outlaw motorcycle gangs, and local/neighborhood gangs. The state of Maryland continues to see an overall increase in the presence of gangs, gang members and gang activity in our communities (not in schools per se). Multiple factors continue to contribute to this increase:
    • Law enforcement recognition of gang activity through increased training and awareness.
    • The release of gang members from the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS).
    • The migration of gangs and gang members from urban areas to suburban and rural areas.
    • The formation of neighborhood gangs/crews to defend against the spread of large

    Source: 2013 Maryland Gang Threat Assessment