Parents learn gang awareness

By Nancy Gutierrez

Last Tuesday, Oct 19, several parents and students met at the Wilson Middle School Cafeteria to learn about gang problems that have occured at Wilson.

Small groups of students have affiliated themselves with specific gangs. Though the problems that occurred at Wilson have been controlled, gang specialist Daniel Longoria warns parents that middle school is the gateway to increased gang activity and it is there that students should receive help.

Longoria talked to parents on how to recognize signs of gang participation. He had a collection of items, taken from students, that are either not allowed at school or that certain students, who were already on a contract due to previous behavioral problems, were not allowed to have. These included a red visor with black writing; red and blue shoe laces, handkerchiefs or rags, belts with initials and chain necklaces, which have been used as weapons. Longoria explained that the school identifies students as being involved with gangs if there are three or more students who share a unique name, mark or symbol and associate together in a specific group.

Usually students are identified as being affiliated with the gang after they have gotten in trouble or possibly had altercations with other students involved in different gangs. Students are then visited by Longoria who tries to educate the students on the pitfalls of gangs and how to resolve problems without fighting.

Longoria was a gang member at 10 years old. He was incarcerated between the ages of 12 and 30 and was only out of jail two-and-a-half years throughout that time. He uses his first-hand knowledge of gang life to show students its reality.

Longoria said that a list of reasons like a lack of identity, a need for companionship, low self-esteem, peer pressure and a lack of parental environment can lead to gang affiliation. Schools are unable to talk to parents about a suspicion they have about their child's possible participation in a gang. Several of the parents at the meeting said they would like to be notified even if there is only a suspicion.

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