MCS focuses on gang prevention in elementary schools
Gang prevention program works with elementary students after suspicious activity
December 6, 2012 at 10:30 PM CST - Updated June 28 at 4:36 PM
(WMC-TV) - Memphis City Schools' gang prevention program will be recognized in Washington D.C. next week for its work toward preventing kids from becoming involved with gangs.
The Gang Awareness and Prevention Program recently worked with a group of elementary students who were suspended after showing signs of gang involvement.
"It absolutely works," said MCS Student Engagement Director Ron Pope said about the program.
Pope's team had to meet with a dozen Getwell Elementary School parents and their children Thursday after the students were suspended.
"Parents need to understand that gang involvement is serious. It's nothing to play with," said Pope.
MCS says the program is not meant to punish but instead, to prevent kids from choosing that path.
"Our goal is to make sure that if there is anything that they bring into the school that's dangerous, that can be dangerous to them and the school, it can be dangerous for them on the street. We want to make them absolutely aware of what can happen," said Pope.
Pope and his staff warn parents and teachers about warning signs like kids wearing too much of the same color, or of course, hand signs.
Other warnings signs include what they are writing, like backwards C's or dotting their I's with a star.
Pope said this is not the first time seeing elementary school kids pass through the program.
"That stuff gets transferred in the household. The younger sister, younger brother sees what the older brothers or older sisters are doing. Sometimes they go in and mimic that behavior. Gangs don't have an age limit and neither do we," Pope said.
Since that program started three years ago, Pope says gang-related suspensions and expulsions have dropped by 70 percent.
Memphis City Schools did not specify what behavior raised red flags at Getwell.