Knightdale High School has plenty of bright, hard-working students and teachers. I see that almost every time I visit.
Last week, I saw the dark side of Knightdale High -- gang presence. I don't mean to imply that Knightdale High is the only high school in Wake County with gangs. The sad state is that it's a countywide problem.
Gangs are disturbing with their culture of crime and violence. I talked to School Resource Officer Mark Batey about gangs because a student suspected of gang activity allegedly assaulted him last week. Batey was attempting to take away a rosary -- now used by some gangs to show membership. (Wake County has a 'no-tolerance' policy for gang clothing, articles, and display of gang symbols.) After repeatedly asking the youth to give him the rosary with no result, he said he reached for it. The young man grabbed Batey's arm, Batey said.
Batey said most of the time gang activity is hard to detect because gang members don't like to call attention to their presence. It's only known many times when a fight breaks out or when school property is marred with gang graffiti as it was last week.
Gang members wear certain types of clothing or jewelry that change as authorities start to recognize them. It's a world of code and secrecy -- they have their own alphabet. A recent disturbing characteristic is the co-opting of a religious ornament as a symbol.
Batey said after police and school officials started confiscating beaded bracelets and necklaces gang members wore, they turned to rosaries to show membership.
This whole thing is so vexing and heart breaking -- that young people can find these types of groups attractive. How do you turn this all around? No tolerance for it is a good start.