Provincial funding is on the way to keep youth out of gangs, though it’s still unclear how much the Delta School District will be getting.
Delta is one of 12 district set to receive a portion of the $1.12 million in gang-prevention money that was announced March 12 by Education Minister Rob Fleming and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth. The money will fund the new ERASE (Expect Respect and a Safe Education) school-based program.
Joanna Angelidis, director of learning services for the Delta School District, told the Reporter there is no crisis in terms of local teens being recruited by gangs, but it is something the district, police and the community ought to keep an eye on.
Angelidis said it is necessary to take steps now to prevent youth from joining gangs, as well as “timely, targeted intervention” for those who are veering towards a path of violence. However, she’s still waiting to hear how much money Delta will get for the initiative.
“What we’re doing at this point is, we’re working closely with ERASE and capitalizing on the expertise there on gang prevention,” Angelidis said.
“We’re looking at things such as staff training around gang prevention and reducing gang violence, as well as looking at what are the current structures that we have in place and how do we build upon those.”
The program, which Angelidis said will be district-wide, will first undertake broad staff training that includes what causes young people get involved with gangs, how to prevent that from happening and what structures need to be in place to help those already involved, such as after-school programs.
“There are also after-school programs that emphasize connection for young people,” she said. “So we have Yo Bro/Yo Girl Youth Initiative as one of the programs that we’re looking at expanding, and there’s an elementary school component, as well as a youth outreach component.”
According to the ministry release, ERASE will also cover an overview of B.C.’s gang landscape, the ways of recruiting, myths and realities about membership, and how to recognize if someone is being recruited or is already involved in gang activity.
The B.C. School Superintendents Association will receive the funding and work with school districts to establish partnerships with the Boys Club Network, an non-profit organization whose goal it is to create safe spaces for boys aged 12 to 19.
“Early intervention and prevention programs like ERASE are vital to ensuring our young people are both knowledgeable and resilient to the lure of gangs and gang violence — helping them make their own positive life choices,” Farnworth said in the release.