http://mv-voice.com/print/story/print/2008/03/21/tracking-gangs-through-myspace


Mountain View Voice

News - March 21, 2008

Tracking gangs through MySpace

Local school administrators use Web site to keep tabs on at-risk students

by Casey Weiss

Marco Garcia uses MySpace to find out what his students may not tell him.

Using the popular Web site, Garcia, at-risk-intervention supervisor at Graham Middle School, is able to watch as students post gang signs and colors, drug-related or sexually explicit images on their profiles.

The social networking site has become one of his biggest resources in eliminating gang culture on campus, Garcia said during a Challenge Team meeting last Thursday. At Challenge Team meetings, local educators, police officers and community leaders get together to discuss the gang- and drug-related issues students face.

Although he visits students' homes and participates in police ride-alongs, Garcia says he gets the most insight while searching MySpace, and he hopes other educators will follow his lead. Garcia said the majority of the students he works with — those who have been identified by teachers, for a wide range of reasons, as being "at risk," or who are not earning passing grades in school — are MySpace users. Others have joined Facebook and LinkedIn, he said.

"Every kid makes himself public on MySpace," Garcia said. "I get to know the individual on a deeper level, by just reading their diary, since they made it public."

If he sees something alarming online, Garcia arranges a meeting with the student and their parents, who are often surprised their child is on MySpace. Many do not have computers or the Internet at home. Some students can outsmart the district's Internet filters, or go to the Mountain View library, which for privacy reasons can only prohibit users from accessing pornography.

"I assess what is going on; there is a reason they can't get a 2.0 [grade point average], besides learning disabilities," Garcia said.

Garcia, who joined the Mountain View Whisman School District two years ago, reads postings on students' MySpace profiles, and looks through the photos they post there. He recently was surprised at a family picture posted by one of his students, a Norteno gang member.

"You have the dad, son and grandson, and they are all in red," Garcia said, referring to that gang's color.

He has some students with high GPAs, but who come from neighborhoods known for their gang activity, and he helps them get involved with community programs such as PAL, the Police Action League. But many, Garcia said, have lost "hope in their education, and they come to school to socialize."

"They are kids who do not care," he said.

Since some students have as many as 1,000 "friends" on their profile, Garcia can easily keep track of their social networks. Older gang members try to recruit Graham students, often newcomers and special education students, through music and images on MySpace.

"Before you know it, students are starting to wear red or blue," Garcia said. "They are preying on our kids."

Garcia has a different problem with his female students, who often lie about their age on their MySpace profile, and pursue relationships with older men. He is currently watching over a female student, age 11, whose MySpace profile says she is 20 years old and from Puerto Rico.

From her MySpace page, Garcia found out that she was meeting an 18-year-old Sunnyvale man at the Mountain View Library. She had only connected online with the man the day before.

He showed up himself to find the two hugging.

"This is an issue that happened outside of school, but can be brought to the parents' attention," Garcia said. "'Look, this is the reason your daughter is failing her class, because she is spending x amount of time online.'"

Gang grant problematic

Also at the Challenge Team meeting last week, police Chief Scott Vermeer told participants that budget cuts could prevent the Mountain View Police Department from accepting a $160,000 gang prevention grant, which requires a matching fund from the department.

The state offered the department a portion of its California Gang Reduction, Intervention and Prevention Program grant for anti-gang activities, but to acquire it, the MVPD must also invest in the programs, said police spokesperson Liz Wylie.

Although the department still hopes to receive the grant, "It comes down to budget issues," Wylie said.

The MVPD did not expect to be offered the grant, which normally goes to cities with more gang activity like Richmond and Los Angeles. Still, the department is now searching for matching funds for the grant.

E-mail Casey Weiss at cweiss@mv-voice.com

Comments

Posted by Graham Parent, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 21, 2008 at 11:30 am

You are amazing Mr. Garcia. My children and family appreciate the things you have done for our community. I don't know what will happen if you ever leave Graham. Community! If you have not met this great guy take the time to meet him. Observe him and he always has a smile and he consistently makes kids and parents feel good. Great Job!


Posted by Enough!, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 21, 2008 at 5:01 pm

First, there was denial that gangs were in the middle schools, now this seems like an admission. This seems like a much more serious issue than the schools are willing to admit.


Posted by Robin, a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 23, 2008 at 12:59 am

Dear Enough,

First you sound angry because you perceive that the schools deny that there is a gang problem.

Now you sound angry because the schools are taking numerous steps to make sure gangs are NOT a problem.

Do you have this kind of problem with concerns such as math? Like, maybe we should deny that algebra is challenging to students, but still we should not teach algebra?

I don't follow your logic, but your frustration and anger come across loud and clear.

What would cause a person to be so full of anger when they live in such a wonderful city as Mountain View, which is reknown for the numerous partnerships and collaborative efforts among schools, businesses, non-profits, and City government, that benefit tomorrow's taxpayers?


Posted by Pepe, a resident of another community
on Mar 24, 2008 at 11:41 am

Good work Garcia. I hope to hear more about your endeavors to keep kids out of gangs. What kind of training do you use for the parents of wanna be gang members? Are you aware of the Parent Project? Also, www.goest.org.
Pepe


Posted by Graham parent, a resident of another community
on Mar 24, 2008 at 1:29 pm

Enough!

Robin is right. This article is not an admission that there is a gang problem on the school campus. On the contrary, I think it highlights one of the ways the schools are working--and succeeding--at keeping the gang problem OFF the campus. The school can only do so much about what happens at home in the neighborhood, but they can-- and do--keep the gang activity off campus. Mr. Garcia is a godsend. He is going one step further and reaching outside the school community to try and keep these kids from joining the gangs in the first place. One reason he can do that is that if kids are on MySpace, etc., they are bringing their neighborhood lives into the public space, so the school can find out some of what they are doing when they leave school.


Posted by Observer, a resident of Whisman Station
on Mar 24, 2008 at 8:38 pm

The article very much implies there are gangs in MV schools, from fourth grade on up. It's those school district trolls again cheerleading away. Only an idiot would put their kids in MV schools given the gangs, drugs, and violence. The middle schools even have teenage pregnancies. Not exactly a breeding ground for getting into the Ivy League schools.


Posted by MV Resident, a resident of Whisman Station
on Mar 24, 2008 at 10:03 pm

Hello Observer! There are gangs everywhere you go. It takes some cajones to make such a bold statement. You will be like everyone else that posts a comment that goes into hiding after the statement. It is ignorant people like yourself that makes comments like this. Don't be influenced by the wrong people. I encourage you to go to the schools and see for yourself. Are these issues unique to Graham or MV students? Not at all! This is our society. People like yourself that are most likely prejudice and/or racist that continue to raise a bunch of idiots. It's unfortunate that you live in our community. Teenage pregnancies? Of course! This happens. What are you doing to help this new child when they arrive in our community?This is not unique to our schools. Ivy League Schools? Wow! Just turn on channel 11 in the mornings and he is a Graham graduate. Name any school and I can asure you that there is a graduate from Graham that has gone there or that was raised in the Mountain View Whisman School District.


Posted by Graham Parent 3, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 25, 2008 at 9:56 am

Dear District Office,

I am curious to know that whith our current budget problems are Mr. Garcia and Mr. Noriega going to be one of our resources that will be cut? My personal opinion is that these two young men need to stay in our district. They are such a great asset to our schools that I think we as a community need to find funds to continue to fund these to crucial positions. I am more familiar with Mr. Garcia, because of Graham, but the work he is doing is above and beyond what anyone does. If we need to cut I personally would say to cut at the District Office level. Mr. Garcia and Mr. Noriega have been an incredible duo in there respective schools. I here of these two from the high school level on down to the elementary level. That's what I call making a change! Observer I agree with you to a certain extent, but go visit these two middle schools and shadow these two gentleman. Anyone that would like to visit these schools please do so. Shadow these men and see what they truly do. Dr. Maurice Ghysels incourages this community to come and visit his schools. If you were to meet Mr. Garcia and Mr. Noriega they will tell how they see it. They don't hide anything. I think there philosophy is that the truth hurts but it needs to be talked about so that there can be change. Observer, I am sorry that I won't agree with you about the Ivy Leagues comment. Graham is not a continuation school. They teach to California standards. The problem is that our state and country are failing our children.


Posted by Graham Parent 3, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 25, 2008 at 9:59 am

Dear MV Voice,

Is there a possiblity to get some gang articles printed in spanish? Our spanish speaking community can understand what is going on. Keep in mind that the majority of our gangs here in Mountain View are of Hispanic descent and we want to educate them as well.

Graham Parent 3


Posted by MVres, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 25, 2008 at 10:52 am

I think the issue is not whether or not gangs are in the middle schools or not, but rather whether middle school children are showing signs of being at-risk for gang recruitment. Gangs are everywhere and no school can be immune to them. They are even glamorized in mainstream media through music and fashion. So if kids are posting things on MySpace that show that they are interested in gangs and have knowledge about them, then it is time to step in and prevent these children from going down that black hole of life. I applaud Mr. Garcia and all educators that are taking extra steps like that to help children stay on track during their most vulnerable years.


Posted by Enough!, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 25, 2008 at 6:01 pm

I agree that Mr. Garcia and Mr. Noriega should be applauded for their work and their truthfulness. That aside, in the interview conducted by the Voice, it seems clear however that gangs are very much in MV schools. Residents who pay top dollar for property should be very angry that their neighborhood schools are permeated by gangs. Compare other areas with such high property values and you won't find gangs in the public schools. The several naive Graham parents making comments here are reckless for having their kids enrolled in MV schools, and irresponsible for not demanding that a hardline approach be taken to rid gangs from both the city and the schools. Admitting that they exist and present a clear danger to all children is imperative. When it comes to gangs and gang violence and drugs, I am really not interested in celebrating the diversity of the culture from which they arise. Nor am I interested in listening to the party line from the schools district. Several months ago, in the aftermath of the Jacob DeWitt incident, there was a rush to deny that gangs were in the schools. Now, this article seems to paint a complete opposite picture. The Voice should be applauded for covering this very important issue while the school district only seems interested in downplaying negative PR any chance it gets.


Posted by Jeremy De Witt, a resident of another community
on Mar 28, 2008 at 1:20 am

Hey everyone, Enough and Observer are the same person. He uses Eddie also. I have noticed him commenting on anything to do with gangs and schools. He is an idiot.

I wish the paper would delete his comments.


Posted by MountainViewownsall, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 9, 2008 at 10:36 am

Good Job.
It is simply another way to track down activity of students,

You would be SURPRISED at how many girls dress like prostitutes, and how many kids overall act like they are old, just because they are on Myspace.

Keep tracking them.

SCHOOL OFFICIALS:

These are the website they use to bypass your system:

www.vtunnel.com

www.daveproxy.co.uk

there are a hundred sites dedicated to bypassing school security, google "myspace proxy"

and ban all the website that show up there, that way they won't be able to log in and bypass the security.

ROFL...this is from a senior student who ruined his grades because of " being with the wrong crowd"; now i will not tolerate such idiotic ways, they ruined my school record, now i will ruin their "fun".

Parents, need help making accounts for myspace, and want them too look "teenage" enough to fool your kids so they can add you - and you can start tracking them?

Email me, i will help and create you one: secretagent2012@gmail.com