The potential impact school closures could have on gang activity - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

The potential impact school closures could have on gang activity

(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5) (SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)

It's a question many parents and stakeholders in the school system are asking: Could closing and consolidating schools increase violence in the classroom?

Parents are urging the district to keep their neighborhood schools open in order to keep rival students separated.

A meeting was held at Northside High School library and parents, alumni, and students all attended. They were there to encourage SCS to keep their school open.

If the school closed, many feared it would result in an even larger problem.

Students such as Northside High Sophomore Maria Jenkins have dreams of going to college and having a career. She would hate to see her school close, but she's one of many concerned about the problems it would create.

"Go to college and graduate with my masters," Jenkins said. "If they merge a school with Northside or merge a school with any school there will be more gang fights, more gang affiliations."

The meeting got parents and alumni involved in the potential closure of three SCS schools.

Under the current recommendations, Carver High, Northside High, and Messick Adult Center would close. In addition, effective next year, students from Carver High will be rezoned to Hamilton High. Northside High students would go to Manassas High, and the closure of Messick would send people to Northwest Prep or Virtual School.

Anti-gang advocates said this is a deadly combination.

"Someone could actually get killed in this situation," former gang member Joe Hunter said.

Hunter, with Gang Inc., has now turned his life around and works with gang members. He said there needs to be a comprehensive plan and programs in place before students, potentially in rival gangs, merge. If not, he said it's a disaster waiting to happen.

"I can see gang fights in the areas of the school's property, I can see drive-by shootings happening after school," Hunter said.

SCS said a lot of work has been done before the merger, like engaging the community and knowing what issues SCS could face. They said they have considered school size and added extra security, as well as behavioral specialists. It's a possible merger in the making. 

"I don't want it to close," Jenkins said.

The board still has to vote to approve the closure recommendations.

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