Gang activity within Mississippi's 1A rural schools

Vickie Lee Cartwright


Violence in the United States continues to increase. A major contributing factor to this increase is the quick succession of gangs that involve young school age children in violent and criminal activity. A surprise exists in the growing number of reports concerning gang activity in rural towns, communities and suburbs across the United States. Communities should not assume that they could remain untouched by gang activity and violence. Furthermore, communities and school administrators need to accept that gangs exist in every regional area and not deny their presence (Korem, 1994). This study examined student's perceptions as to reasons why youths join gangs. Each student classified themselves into one of three categories: gang members; gang recruits; uninvolved youths. The variables of number of parents at home, economic-status, access to positive role models, employment opportunities, recreational opportunities, and religious exposure were examined as reasons for why youths join gangs. The study found that each category of youths did have different perceptions on each of the variables. There was no difference in student's perceptions on the variables as to why a youth would join a gang according to their race or grade. Students from each race and all grades stated that the variables given as a whole were valid reasons for youths to join gangs. There were some differences as how much each variable related to each other in explaining why a youth would join a gang. The study also showed that age and gender were not indicators as to who was at a higher risk for joining a gang. No matter what age or gender a student may possess, all students are at an equal risk for becoming involved with a gang. The data from this study showed that self-reported gang members and gang recruits were present in all rural 1A schools that were surveyed. Because the schools were representative of all regions within the State of Mississippi, the data showed that gangs exist in all regions in Mississippi. The study provided prevention, intervention and suppression research that can be used within many different schools in many different formats.