Sunday, October 30, 2011

Keeping Drug Cartel Recruitment Out of Houston Schools

Recently, Senator John Cornyn visited with top officials at Houston Independent School District and the topic was preventing drug cartel recruitment in the schools.

On Monday, I met with top officials from the Houston Independent School District, one of the nation’s largest school districts, to discuss the recent warning from the Texas Department of Public Safety that Mexican drug cartels are attempting to recruit high school students. Terry Grier, HISD Superintendent, and Jimmy Dotson, HISD Chief of Police, assured me that they have no evidence to indicate that the cartels have been successful in any attempts to recruit HISD students. This is largely due to the proactive measures that the school district has taken to address this threat. HISD has the nation’s only fully accredited school district police force. This includes a gang task force dedicated to tracking gang activity and sharing intelligence with multi-jurisdictional gang task forces on the regional, state and federal levels. We all acknowledged that constant vigilance is required to protect our students, and I am confident in HISD’s ability to do so.

As Texans, we’re not strangers to the senseless brutality of the drug cartels on the other side of the border. DPS’s warning stands as further proof that the border must be secured for the sake of all Texans—especially our children.

HISD has implemented a program - G.R.E.A.T. which educates middle schoolers on the dangers of gangs and their recruitment tactics.

Gang life can be attractive to some teens looking for a way to be a part of something and to stand out.

"They're looking for leadership, that guidance, and a sense of belonging," said Bradford Roland of the HPD Gang Division.

HPD sends officers to high-risk Houston Independent School Districts campuses to teach middle school students about gang resistance. The program is called G.R.E.A.T., which stands for Gang Resistance Education and Training.

G.R.E.A.T. is a national program that has also partnered with such organizations like Boys and Girls Clubs, and National Association of Police Athletic Leagues.

Since the G.R.E.A.T. Program went nationwide in 1992, many law enforcement agencies and schools from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories of Guam and Puerto Rico, Bermuda, Canada, Central America, England, and military bases in Japan and Germany have implemented the program. Currently, the G.R.E.A.T. Program is delivered in over 500 communities across the United States. In order to maintain the integrity of the G.R.E.A.T. Program, it is necessary to have a strong organizational structure to regulate decisions and program or curricula changes.

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