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KTVL CBS Channel 10 :: News - Rogue Gangs - School gang assessment

School gang assessment

By David De Rurange/KTVL.com PHOENIX, Ore. -- Jackson County schools are weighing in on the countywide gang assessment, but one district has chosen not to. Shawna Blanchette is the Assistant Principal at Phoenix High School. Every day, she said kids talk to her about gangs. In December,  Blanchette attended the last gang forum held in Jackson County. "I think prior to becoming an Assistant Principal three years ago, just as a teacher at Phoenix High School, I didn't understand the severity of the gang problem that is prevalent in this area." Blanchette said. At the forum, Blanchette filled out the gang assessment.  The assessment asks how bad the gang problem is in schools and in town. It also asks what should be done to stop gang activity. "Living in Talent, I feel this is pretty peaceful community. Some of the obvious things are like on Talent Avenue you'll see a 13 or a 14 on the sidewalk and you think, oh okay, there's a kid that's tagged this or something like that... I know that drugs are just an issue in general... And the more you know about it, the more you learn about it -- the more you can kind of see it." Blanchette said.     When school faculty sees a student intimidating another to join a gang, they'll have the student sign a gang contract. It states if a student joins a gang or gang activity is involved in, parents will be notified or he or she will face a ten day suspension. Out of 735 students at the school, only three have signed the gang contract. The number of students admitting to gang activity may be low, but it can grow quickly. Student Manager Chris Elkin said Phoenix High has seen new students moving through who bring the gang culture with them.  They come off of Interstate 5, from places with heavy gang activity. "If they're charismatic, and they're into gangs, they start recruiting, and before you know it in the blink of an eye, you have a gang problem." Elkin said.     Preventing that kind of a problem -- is where the gang assessment comes in. All faculty and students in Jackson County participated in this assessment, except the Ashland School District. "Currently, in Ashland and Ashland High School we are the last ones to have any unknown gang activities." Juli Di Chiro, Ashland Schools Superintendent. "I'm very supportive of this work going on in our community. Our high school and the district are involved in many major initiatives on educational reform right now. So it was really kind of a prioritization of our needs and how to best spend our time." Di Chiro said Ashland's demographics don't match those which foster gang activity. "We work really hard to have a safe and secure campus and we have our own issues." Di Chiro said.  "You know we've been dealing with the hazing issue right now. So it's not like we don't have issues we're dealing with at the high school, but that right at this time is not a priority." For Shawna Blanchette, filling out the gang assessment is a priority. "It all comes down to mentorship. Blanchette said. "Providing students to make positive choices. Giving them opportunities to feel good about themselves and to have ownership over their lives and those kinds of things. Because I think those are some of the reasons why people get involved in gangs anyway."  School gang assessment

Saturday, August 3 2013, 02:17 PM CDT
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