I was recently on a campus working with some administrators who were dealing with more and more students tagging their books with gang signs. After confirming that yes, the tags were gang related, we discussed some strategies for addressing the problem. One idea was to train all the staff on current gang tags and what specifically to look for. However, I didn’t think that was the best way to combat the problem. Here is the reason why, gang tags are like technology, by the time we figure out what to look for, we are already out of date. So I suggested an alternate strategy.

1. Let the staff know that there is a problem and show them the examples.

2. Stress that the teacher is the first line of defense. The teacher has to look at notebooks, desks, books, etc. and address anything suspicious.

3. The staff has to use the following filter when assessing doodles and drawings. If you saw the words and/or drawings on the side of a building near your home, what would you think? If it wouldn’t bother you, it is probably okay. If it would make you uncomfortable, then the teacher needs to take some action.

This advice obviously isn’t the end all in addressing gang issues, it’s just a way to build some first level awareness and initial response. If you need some other ideas or resources, send me a comment.

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