Unless you haven’t looked around our community much lately then the activity of gangs in Round Lake should be of no surprise to you. While there are a number of possible explanations they all really don’t matter at the end of the day. Gangs have been and will continue to be in Round Lake, this is nothing new. What is new are the methods and the nature of their activity. They don’t just spray paint a wall anymore, they post their exploits on MySpace and You Tube including videos of murders and drive-by shootings. They don’t just settle for walls in out of the way places anymore either, they tag (vandalize with their gang symbols) the hallways of our schools or break in and completely trash a school. Finally, if you thought that they just wanted to recruit high school boys or middle school boys you are sadly mistaken, they’re recruiting our elementary students and girls now as well.
I’m not posting this to create some sort of panic or mass hysteria — our local police departments and the staff at our schools are hard at work doing all they can to keep the gangs out. What needs to happen is the people of this community, especially the parents need to wake up and recognize this problem. What’s different now is parents rationalizing or even making excuses for their child’s gang activity — “they’re just drawings”, “it’s just a list of phone numbers”, or “just because he draws it doesn’t mean he’s in that gang” are common phrases I’ve heard from parents when confronted with the truth, the absolute reality, that their child is involved with a gang.
As a school board member it’s time for me to tell to you what my job is and this is solely my opinion, it’s how I’ve conducted myself since I was first elected and it’s how I will continue to represent this community as long as I serve. I owe no duty to any individual student in Round Lake Area Schools, I owe a collective duty to the more than 6,000 students we serve.
I owe them a safe learning environment and any time I have a vote in keeping that environment safe that is what I am going to vote for. The school is no substitute for parents. The school is not there to straighten out these kids and get them out of the gang. The school is not there to tolerate behavior related to gang activity. The school is there to educate.
We do all that we can — our staff members, the police, government and non-profit community groups are all there to try to help parents where we can. We’re more than happy to help and steer you in the right direction to get help with your child. However, if you continue to live in a state of denial about your child, if you continue to make excuse after excuse for them, if you continue to tolerate their activity and somehow try to explain it or legitimize it there is going to be very little that we can do. So I’m telling you now that the resources are there to help you but the first step is to accept and recognize that your child has a problem. Don’t make excuses for it and don’t fault yourself for it because even kids in good homes can fall in with the wrong crowd and become involved with gangs. You should fault yourself though if you do not stand up, recognize it and draw the line with your child that it won’t be accepted because that is the line I have drawn with them.
For the most part I don’t believe in “zero tolerance” but one area where I do believe in it is gang activity. If your child “represents” (wears clothing identified with gangs, draws pictures affiliated with gangs, vandalizes school property with gang graffiti) in our buildings that is gang activity, that is not allowed under our code of conduct and your child is subject to discipline up to and including a two-year expulsion from school. If your child comes before me and there is conclusive evidence of this I can tell you right now I will be voting to expel your child for two years from school, the maximum penalty we can impose by law. If your child comes before me on the school board they will have had many chances to change their behavior unless the act they committed is severe.
Some people may cry that I’m only driving that child to the gang and I say to you nothing could be further from the truth. That child was driven there long before I became involved. My duty, my obligation, is to the more than 6,000 students in our district who are there to get an education in a safe environment. I will not jeopardize that, I will not shirk my duty to provide that safe environment because I’m concerned about what will happen to any individual student who has obviously already made a choice about what he/she is coming to school for.
Below are some links to information related to gang awareness. Use the resources the community is providing and if you’re still confused, still don’t know where to turn I suggest you call the police at 847-270-9111 and they will put you in touch with people who can help.
Round Lake Area Parents Guide To Gangs
Round Lake Area Parents Guide To Gangs (Spanish)
“Gangs Or Us” – Parent Resources Page
Lake County Circuit Court – Gang Awareness
Lake County Circuit Court – Gang Alert
City of Aurora – Gang Awareness
San Antonio (TX) Police Department – Gang Awareness Handbook