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San Francisco Bay Area community news

Middle school adds police to curb gang activity

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Beth Winegarner
Daily News Staff Writer
November 15, 2005

The Redwood City School District is hiring a probation officer to head off gang-related behavior in middle-school students before it becomes a serious problem.

District officials last week approved a deal with the San Mateo County Probation Department, which already provides Risk Prevention Program officers for high schools across the county, to set up a similar program in middle schools. The move comes at a time when younger and younger residents are becoming involved in gang activity, but is also intended to deal with other behavioral problems such as truancy and drug problems.

“We do have some students who are wanna-be gang members, and that’s pretty scary,” said Diane Kizler, coordinator of support services for the Redwood City School District. “They show signs of gang affiliation and they wear the colors.”

After watching gang activity increase this year, school officials wanted to hire someone to work with younger juveniles before problems erupt in the schools, according to Kizler.
“We didn’t want to wait for things to happen,” she said. “We want to make sure we have all the pieces in place.”

The officer will work 16 to 20 hours a week from a station located between the Hoover and Kennedy Middle school campuses, which serve roughly 1,200 middle-school-age students, according to Kizler. Other district schools will have immediate access to the officer, who is expected to start duty by mid-December.

He or she will handle cases related to attendance and truancy, behavior issues and fighting, monitoring students to make sure they stay out of trouble and on track to graduate, and will intervene to minimize drugs and weapons possession on school campuses.

“We’re finding that you’re better off with early intervention,” said James Nordman, director of juvenile probation services for the county.

School officials have confiscated air rifles and bb guns that students brought to school, but so far no “serious” weapons have been found, Kizler said.

“In these cases, we meet with the minor and with the parent, we discuss what is going on and develop some working contracts to resolve the problem,” Nordman said.

Redwood City School District’s piece of the program will cost about $82,500 a year, $27,500 of which will be supplied by a school grant from Safe Schools and Communities. The rest will come from the county probation department.

So far, the Risk Prevention Program has been so successful that when it was threatened by budget cuts two years ago, school officials begged the county to keep funded. The probation office is currently talking with schools in East Palo Alto about bringing officers to middle schools in that city, and resource officers already work in some middle schools in the north and central county areas, according to Nordman.

This article originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily News.

Written by Beth Winegarner

November 15, 2005 at 9:14 PM

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