Selma Chief of Police updates schools on gang prevention

Published 8:04 pm Thursday, April 4, 2013

School safety was a key issue highlighted during the recent Selma City School Board work session as Selma Chief of Police William T. Riley presented the board with an update on what the Selma Police Department is doing to keep Selma City Schools safe.

“Our goal is to make sure that our schools are as safe as possible,” Riley said. “We’re trying to do all we can to keep our kids safe.”

Riley updated the school board members on the Gang Resistance Education and Training program, or GREAT as it is  known, explaining the program is essentially a gang reduction program — similar to the DARE program — but teaches students about gang activities.

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“The GREAT program deals more with gang education and gang reduction,” Riley said. “It’s also a good learning tool for the kids as well, so we’re hoping probably in July to get at least four or five [officers trained to teach] the program.”

Riley also addressed drugs in schools — an issue the board members said, “breaks their heart.” Riley said the department knows what’s going on in the schools and they have very few incidents.

“Of course when somebody gets caught with marijuana it gets headlines, but overall we have very few incidents that go on in our schools, and that’s attributed to a lot of things going on at the school — the principals are much more aware of what’s going on.”

School board member Dr. Udo Ufomadu asked Riley where the drugs are coming from — something he and the board can’t seem to get answers on.

“Is there anything we can do immediately to take action,” Ufomadu asked.

Riley told the board that children have to be dealt with differently than adults when it comes to drugs.

“With children you don’t put them in [certain] situations, so we have to work in a way that keeps the kid isolated and out of danger,” Riley said. “Unfortunately drugs are in our community; they’re here. It’s sad that our children get involved with it and we deal with it the best way we possibly can.”

School board member Brenda Obomanu said that for students to continue to bring drugs into the schools, there has to be a break down of rule enforcement.

“It’s hard to rationalize that a child is going and smoking marijuana while at school, knowing that a resource officer and security officers are there, and I feel like somewhere is a break down,” she said. “I feel like it’s a break down with us. We need some help. It breaks our heart when we have to expel the child, but at the same time I don’t feel like it’s right to dummy down the rules when marijuana is an illegal substance and it’s in our handbook.”

Selma City Schools Superintendent Gerald Shirley said school safety and drugs in school are something to be taken seriously and the board will continue to work with the police department to provide a safe learning environment.