Does a student at a local public school in Gran Rapids, Michigan deserve to be "removed"?
By Alex Alonso (Streetgangs.com)
October 20, 2009
Administrators from the Godwin Heights Public School district in Grand Rapids, Michigan are trying to "remove" a student from one of their schools for perceived gang activity. The unknown student has not committed an act of violence or threatened any student or faculty member from what we know, but nevertheless, because a few administrators "believe" that he is a gang member, they want him out.
They are trying to link graffiti written on the school property to the student when they are not even sure if the graffiti is gang-related. A School Resource Officer is relying on information on the internet coming from other jurisdictions to determine if the writing at this Grand Rapids school was gang-related in an effort to secure the removal of this student. The message below was written by the school's Safety & Security Coordinator, Ken Franks:
We have a student that administration is considering removing from school due to gang activity, though they are having a hard time pinning any specific gang-related activity to him. Recently, we have narrowed down one tagging to him though it doesn't have specific enough gang references for Administrators unless we are missing the significance of what was drawn (805, Los Angeles, L.A.O.R.). Also, we've had Norte & X4 taggings since this student has been enrolled, but are unable to link it to him specifically. Does anyone have any insight on what the L.A.O.R. is or if 805 is "Nortenos" territory? If I can link the two together, I'm sure that's a strong enough case for his removal.
This is a clear example of how our public schools are failing our children. This knee-jerk reaction to remove the student because of uncertain information regarding gangs is an example of how our public schools are abandoning America’s youth. Outside of the family, schools are the first line of defense towards mitigating youth violence, gang activity, and school related crime. The public school has to find a way to address the issues that are affecting this teen’s life and provide the adequate support from qualified social practitioners.
There is an abundance of single parent families not able to adequately instill a strong and positive value system in our youth because of either bad parenting or the absence of a father, but the school system could mitigate problems that are derived from the student’s home. But as the message above suggests, the administration wants to treat the student like a "hot potato" making him someone else's problem by completely trying to find way to get rid of a him rather than finding ways to integrate him into the school system.
The student is being accused of writing "Los Angeles" and the "805" area code of Ventura County, which represents Southern California, but the student is also accused of writing "Norte" and "X4" which represents Northern California. The administrators are clearly confused, lack training in reading basic graffiti, and want to blame this student for everything that's not right at this school. But what's not right is how this school is attempting to criminalizing this youth for vandalism that he is clearly not responsible for, and vilifying him by unjustly labeling him a gang member when they have had a "hard time pinning any specific gang-related activity to him." The school's behavior could possible cause the youth to feel disenfranchised from the rest of the student population.