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Boschulte School Meeting Gives Parents Gang Info After Assault

Jan. 14, 2008 — Parents of Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School students were called to the school Wednesday for a meeting to discuss new school policies following an assault at the school last week.
The school and the school system are taking a proactive approach to stemming the tide of violence, which school and police officials associate with a surge in gang activity in the community.
Parents learned that the incident last week, which sent one student to the hospital with severe head injuries, was a part of the fabric of violence associated with gang behavior, and learned of its pervasiveness throughout the territory's schools. (See "Five Young Teens Charged in School Assault.")
"We are going to share information with you as parents," said BCB Principal Carver Farrow. "When there are gangs in the community, there are gangs in the schools."
New school policies prevent students from displaying any gang-related signs, and items decorated with them will be confiscated and parents will be called. Bandannas, regardless of color, are forbidden. Only white T-shirts can be worn under student's uniforms unless the shirt is for physical-education class.
"We don’t like this," Farrow said. "We have worked hard to have a good reputation at BCB. We are looking for ways to prevent it [the violence] and we need the parent's help. It is going to take a partnership between the school, the parents and the community."
Parents learned how to identify the signs of gang membership and ways to discover whether their children were participating in gang activity.
Pictures of gang graffiti, clothing and markings in a presentation by Lavelle Campbell, monitor for the V.I. Department of Education, drew considerable reaction from the audience.
The presentation showed the kinds of graffiti and threats on walls in schools on walls, and even on buildings in downtown Charlotte Amalie. The graffiti includes lots of symbols and acronyms for local gangs. The symbols even include five-pointed stars and six-pointed stars of David, but with initials written inside of the triangles formed by the lines in the star.
Gangs in the territory are organized largely by geography, as evidenced by their names, including SVMC for Savan Massive Crew, SBM for Smith Bay Massive, RVM for Ras Valley Massive and Garden Street Massive, according to Campbell.
The presentation also showed gang designs on children's backpacks and book bags. Campbell noted that some of the designs were on bags belonging to young elementary school students.
Campbell explained that the number 187 was a euphemism for murder and the use of the word "flex" stood for someone who had committed a deed that earned him gang acceptance.
School officials encouraged parents to look closely at the kinds of designs their children had drawn on their clothes and book bags, and further encouraged them to go through their children's belongings to look for gang-related items.
"I know we have to do something," Campbell said, "I am glad to hear 'oohs' and 'whoas' when we show things like this."
The victim of last week's assault, a student at the school, had been moved out of the intensive-care unit at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, according to Farrow.
The incident has the whole community's attention, he said.
The assault occurred Jan 8. V.I. Police officers were told of a fight on campus and found a crowd of students near the school's field, with the victim on the ground suffering seizures and bleeding from a gash to the head, police said.
The origin of the conflict is being investigated by the police and the school, Farrow said
The injured boy was taken to SRMC and later airlifted to the hospital in Miami, according to a hospital spokesman here.
The child is still improving and may be released by Thursday, according to the same source.
Farrow plans a trip to Miami Thursday to carry well-wishes and cards to the student.
The minors charged in the incident, as well as the injured, are all students at the school, according to a police spokeswoman.
The five students charged in the incident were arrested Monday and charged with first- and third-degree assault and aiding and abetting the assault. Those charged have been released into the custody of their parents.
"Of the 700 students at BCB, the majority are doing what they are supposed to do," said Insular Superintendent Jeanette Smith-Barry. "We don't hear about them as often, but it only takes one incident to change that. My position is that we have a responsibility to ensure safety in the schools, and all students have a right to learn. We cannot let the majority of the students suffer for the few. Why is their learning to be interrupted by people feuding between neighborhoods?"
The new dress policy is not just for BCB, but for all schools in the district, Smith-Barry said.
"Even in the elementary schools they are tying their shoelaces in a certain way" that indicates gang affiliation, Smith-Barry said. "We have to get rid of these signs."
Schools will enforce policies more stringently in the wake of the meeting, but Smith-Barry emphasized the need for parent and community partnership.
"No one entity will do it alone," she said. "It is our commitment to be a lot more forceful and in the implementation of the policies."
Campbell's presentation showed that gang items can include common kitchen knives, baggies of marijuana and rolling papers.
Smith-Barry counseled parents to check their children's pockets and look at their children's notebooks, and also carefully observe who their friends are.
"Sometimes they find the wrong friends," she said. "We have to monitor so we can find out what they are dealing with. Some are being pressured to get involved."
Officials urged parents to share the meeting's information with parents who could not attend.
"If we are going to change things, we need you to change also," Campbell told parents.
Campbell concurred with Smith-Barry's suggestion that parents closely monitor their children's belongings.
"Parents need to pay more attention," said Clifton Joseph, whose children attend BCB. "If your child is wearing the same color clothes all the time, you need to question this."
Another parent who preferred not to supply his name said that he had learned a great deal about identifying gang behavior from the meeting, and would share the information with other parents.
A mother with children at BCB, who also preferred not to give her name, said that she had learned a great deal about gangs at the meeting. She said that she holds regular family meetings with her children, and she intended to hold one when she got home about what she had learned in the meeting.
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