Expert unsure if student groups' activity at Washington County schools was gang-related

June 28, 2011|By JULIE E. GREENE |
  • Washington County Public Schools safety and security specialist Steve Ganley speaks Tuesday during the Safe Schools Act Committee meeting. Also attending, from left, are Washington County Sherriff Douglas Mullendore and Deputy State's Attorney Steven Kessell.
By Colleen McGrath/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — A gang expert said Tuesday that during the past year groups of students at some Washington County Public Schools identified themselves in a manner consistent with nationally recognized gangs, but he wasn’t ready to “hang the title ‘gang’ on the groups yet.”

Although a proposed gang policy being considered by the Washington County Board of Education was prompted by a state mandate and not local incidents, Todd Dunkle, an agent with Washington County Narcotics Task Force’s Gang Unit, said that there were some mischievous groups of students involved in bullying, thefts and vandalism such as graffiti on school property.

However, Dunkle said he couldn’t say those acts were tied to gang turf issues or were done in the name of a gang.

Dunkle was interviewed at the school system’s central office before the start of a community meeting on the school system’s proposed gang policy.

About 25 people, including educators, police, parents, and representatives from agencies such as the state Department of Juvenile Service and the Washington County State’s Attorney’s Office attended the meeting. No students attended.

The group reviewed and commented on the policy, which the school board introduced at a May 3 meeting.

The policy defines gangs and gang activity. It would require school employees to report any suspected gang activity or similar destructive or illegal group behavior to the principal or school security officer.

Assistant Superintendent Mike Markoe said the school system’s leadership team will review the comments and consider revisions with the goal of bringing the proposed policy back to the school board in July for adoption.

The school board is scheduled to meet on July 12 at the central office off Commonwealth Avenue.

Dunkle said the criminal activity by groups this past school year was at North Hagerstown and South Hagerstown High schools, as well as at Western Heights Middle School and the alternative school program.

Several of the students involved were seniors, so they will not be returning to school in August, he said.

Some of the students involved in the incidents identified themselves with the colors of nationally recognized gangs, he said.

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