Report on Gangs in Schools Gets Mixed Reactions

Posted: Updated:

A recent report shows a problem growing across the country is happening in Charlottesville and Albemarle County too.

In that 100-page report, students say there are gangs in area schools, but some school leaders say that's not the case.

The report is getting different reactions.

“This assessment and this report was eye-opening and it should be for the community,” said James Pierce, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Central Virginia and a member of the gang report task force.

“I am familiar with gangs; I have been in the system for 40 years. This isn't new information,” said Jim Henderson, assistant superintendent for administrative services for Charlottesville City Schools.

According to the report, of the approximate 17,000 students in the city and county, more than 1,000 reported gangs in their schools. And more than 340 of them said it is a moderate or big problem in their schools.

But Henderson flatly disagrees.

“We do not have gang activity inside of our schools,” he said.

The report points to signs school leaders just may not be aware of it. Henderson says he relies on information from the system's school resource officers.

“Our SRO officers inside of the middle schools and the high school, we monitor that and that information comes back to me,” Henderson said.

The report suggests a breakdown between those officers and the community - and recommends increased connections.

“The report is extremely helpful in showing the reality of what is out there, whether it is neighborhood sets or full-blown gangs with national affiliations. I think these are things that may surprise some of our residents. I think part of the goal is to make sure if we act now that we can get in front of this issue,” Pierce said.

Henderson says the school system is always re-assessing its student outreach effort. Both he and Pierce say keeping kids active, involved and away from gangs is a community effort.

NBC29 also requested to speak with Albemarle County Public Schools about the report, but has yet to hear back.