School-based programs can reduce the risk for problem behavior and violence in the general school population. However, to do so, schools must assess gang problems accurately, implement evidence-based strategies to prevent gang-joining, and address students’ fears that may contribute to the risk of gang-joining. In fact, providing a safe environment to ensure that students are not fearful might be the single most important thing schools can do to help prevent kids from joining gangs.
Before implementing a gang-prevention program, school leaders should ensure that the program:
- Uses educational time efficiently.
- Uses state-of-the-art methods.
- Has been shown to be effective in preventing gang involvement.
- Is implemented as designed.
It is also very important to realize, however, that school-based programs are unlikely to reach kids who are at the greatest risk of joining gangs: kids who have dropped out of or are not fully engaged in school. To expect school-based programs to reach kids in schools with very high dropout rates is unrealistic. Alternative strategies, such as holding evening programs, might help some members of this population, but much more research must be done on this topic.
In the Spotlight: This chapter features an interview with Thomas Gore, President and Executive Director of Associates for Renewal in Education Public Charter School.
Read the Changing Course chapter “What Can Schools Do to Help Prevent Gang-Joining?” by Gary D. Gottfredson (pdf, 15 pages).
About This Article
This article presents a chapter summary from the joint National Institute of Justice and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention publication Changing Course: Preventing Gang Membership (pdf, 166 pages). Changing Course features chapters written by some of the nation’s top criminal justice and public health researchers. The volume was edited by Thomas R. Simon, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nancy M. Ritter, National Institute of Justice, Reshma R. Mahendra, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.