Gang Violence in Schools – 5 Facts You Didn’t Know

In a recent publication released by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Service, a team of authors with extensive experience in the educational field wrote on gang violence in schools. Titled Changing Course: Preventing Gang Membership, this collaboration of writers go in-depth on the who’s, what’s, where’s, and why’s of gang influence and participation by the American youth, and how to best work to prevent and even eradicate this issue.

From this publication, the CCG team has taken 5 facts about gang violence in schools that most of the general public does not know, but that are vital in understanding and combating the issue:


1) 4 out of 5 schools dealing with gang violence refuse to admit there is a problem.

No school wants to admit there is gang activity amongst their student population. It is a taboo subject and degrades the school’s overall value. Changing Course focuses on schools confirmed to have gang participation through interviewing the students themselves, but only one-fifth of the principles interviewed admitted that they had gang activity in their school.


2) School-based anti-gang programs usually do not reach the highest-risk students.

While programs utilized in schools have a positive effect for the overall view of gangs by the student body, the students most at-risk for gang participation are the ones who rarely come to school at all. This means the students in most need of these programs are not exposed to them. Because of this, the writers highlight the need for community-based programs. Places like churches and rec centers are more likely to reach those students who avoid school.


3) The #1 deflector of gang violence in schools is the physical presence of adults.

Many schools have started utilizing metal detectors and video surveillance as ways to deter gang violence. However, studies show that nothing deters student gang members from starting incidents in school than the physical presence of adult faculty and staff. Teachers standing in the hallways during the changing of classes is far more impactful for students than the knowledge of surveillance cameras.


4) Most students join gangs for safety, not glory.

The way gangs are portrayed in the media suggests that young people become members out of rebellion, and as a means of accessing power, money, and a sense of belonging. Well those can be motives for gang membership, the majority of students who join gangs do so for protection. Gangs are most common in low-income communities, where going to school can be just as dangerous as walking alone down the street at night.


5) Charter schools, a huge help in combating student gang membership, often do not last because they are expected to match the standardized test scores of traditional schools.

Charter schools play a key role in reaching adolescents who are often inaccessible to the regular school system. However, to remain accredited they are expected to have their students produce a certain level of standardized test results. Often, the expectation is set at the same level for regular schools. The problem here is that charter schools typically have a student body and a different focus. Just getting their students into regular attendance and class participation is a victory for charter schools, as is simply improving their students’ grades and test scores. To expect the same level of test results as from traditional schools is unrealistic, yet a very common practice. It is because of this that many charter schools struggle to maintain their funding and stay open.



Simon, Thomas R., Nancy M. Ritter, and Reshma R. Mahendra. “What Can Schools Do to Help Prevent Gang-Joining?.” Changing Course: Preventing Gang Membership. Rockville, MD: NCJRS Photocopy Services, 2013. Online.