Australian Institute of Criminology

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Gangs in schools

Media Release

30 September 2002

To further research into the area of gangs, the Australian Institute of Criminology has today released a paper which provides an overview of various anti-gang approaches and strategies used within a schooling context.

"Gang membership is intimately related to peer interaction', said Dr Adam Graycar, when releasing the paper. "While peer groups come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, school is seen as an important site for the incubation and sustainment of these diverse peer networks".

The paper found:

  • In a school context, gangs may be associated with group fights or group bullying of students. Gangs may also be associated with destruction of school property and intimidation of teachers. Gangs may form for a variety of reasons - alienation from schooling, peer pressures, family ties, the need for protection. Each type of group formation within a school has to be examined in its own right to ascertain its basic features, activities and membership.
  • There are a wide range of activities and approaches that can be taken with school based gang prevention and intervention programs, for example: anti-gang education, tackling violence and bullying, reducing truancy and exclusion from school and changing peer relationships so that gang membership is less attractive.
  • Schools can play a key role in preventing antisocial behaviour and gang formation by focusing on social inclusion. Schools should enhance the positive educational experience of young people through giving effect to different types of positive social connection.
  • School based gang prevention and intervention programs need to overcome perennial problems of delivery. Realistic anti-gang strategies have to start where the young people are coming from, rather than solely reflecting the interests or thinking of service providers.