Last week, lunchtime commuters on Hulen Street witnessed a bizarre incident at Arlington Heights High School. Fort Worth police arrested 20 people, ordering them to the ground and handcuffed them in the school’s back parking lot, according to a story in the Sept. 28 Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The arrests are the result of the Police Department’s stepped-up zero-tolerance policy to gangs and comes after a series of gang-related incidents on school campuses in the area.
One incident occurred near Paschal High School, where, two weeks ago, police interfered with a potential gang fight. Before, on Sept. 8, an incident resulted in a police officer shooting a student after being jumped by several boys.
It is clear from these events something more needs to be done to control gang violence on school-district campuses. Police have long exercised the zero-tolerance gang policy in the street – it only makes sense the same approach, and possibly more, should be applied to schools.
While arresting 20 people outside the school building might seem drastic, I think it’s a step in the right direction. You can’t blame police for not wanting to take their chances with another incident like the one that got a student shot.
In the case last Wednesday, the school resource officer saw students gathering outside and immediately called for police backup, according to the Star-Telegram article. While many people might try to take break up the fight themselves before calling the authorities, here, the resource officer made the right decision. Instead of trying to handle the incident through the school’s methods, the resource officer called in outside help who knows how to handle these types of situations and can put an immediate stop to them.
This approach should set an example to anyone witnessing a possible riot. Even if it could possibly be solved by school personnel, why take the chance of lawsuits and injuries? Calling the authorities is the most efficient and direct way to deal with gang fights.
Aside from that, of the 20 people who met outside last Wednesday to fight, at least one was not a student – the one believed to have initiated the disturbance, according to the Star-Telegram. Obviously, this problem is not something schools alone can control, if some of the people involved aren’t even under their jurisdiction.
Furthermore, nothing negative came as a result of these arrests. The arrests didn’t harm anyone, and didn’t even disturb classes in nearby buildings. In fact, the Police Department’s anti-gang policy is probably a welcome to other students. With the threat of nonstudents trying to cause riots on campus, students will probably feel safer knowing that police officers are ready to handle any trouble.
People need to learn gangs and fighting are not something to mess around with. I’m sure not all of the students gathered planned on fighting, but even those present to watch the fight need to know gang fights will be taken seriously.
And once other students see what they face if they decide to participate, why would they take the chance? The repercussions don’t involve having to sit through detention or getting a suspension (which to many students, probably means a vacation) from school. Instead, students will be handcuffed, put into the back of a police car and taken downtown like a criminal. That means permanent record. The zero-tolerance approach not only efficiently deals with gang fights as they happen, but they’ll also serve as a detriment to future gang fights.
And as for the 20 people, four of whom were adults and 16 minors, a little taste of the real world might be just what they need to get them back on track.
Valerie Cooper is a sophomore news-editorial journalism major from Azle. Her column appears every Wednesday.