by Sam Hieb
When I first glanced at the headline of this N&R article, I thought I was going to read about how the City of Greensboro’s new anti-gang initiative would benefit Guilford County Schools. It just makes sense.
Yet GCS Superintendent Terry Grier and school board chairman Alan Duncan are on the defensive throughout the article, addressing the view that if GCS had been doing its job, then we might not have a gang problem here in Greensboro:
“I don’t buy that at all,” Grier said. “We’ve been taking it very seriously as long as I’ve been in the district. I’ve worked in districts where we’ve had serious gang problems. Gangs may be a new phenomenon in Greensboro, North Carolina, but they’re not new to me.”
From 1999 to 2005, gang membership doubled in the state, according to the N.C. Criminal Justice Analysis Center.
Grier and school board Chairman Alan Duncan both pointed out that $3 million to address discipline and school climate issues in this year’s school budget was cut by the county commissioners.
“Gang activity is typically brought to school; it doesn’t formulate in school,” Duncan said. “We try to use school as a positive activity. We’re not funded sufficiently to educate our children, much less meet all their health needs and social needs,” he said.
Duncan took issue with earlier reports in which local police anti-gang officers portrayed school board members as reluctant to confront a growing gang problem.
“The problem with that is, how do you define a gang?” Duncan said. “There are easier and harder definitions of that. Depending on how you define a gang, there has been some gang activity in schools since I’ve been on board (2000).”
Duncan cited several areas in which the Guilford County Schools are trying to inhibit the growth of gang membership.
“First, we’re trying to engage our students in extracurricular activities — music drama, athletics, chess and these sorts of things. Those kids are going to be a whole lot less prone to go home and get involved in something negative.”
Duncan said school resource officers also are encouraged to be pro-active in cutting off gang-related activities in schools. He cited the schools’ mentoring program, Connect GCS, that matches students with certified staff in middle and high schools.
“It’s not as broadly implemented as we’d like, for funding reasons,” Duncan said.
I’m curious about how the tone of the article evolved. Did veteran reporter Tom Steadman put Grier and Duncan on the spot, or are they just permanently on defense?