Kaye Beach

Anti-gang Legislation raises questions

In Uncategorized on December 3, 2009 at 8:43 pm

By World’s Editorial Writers
Published: 12/2/2009  2:21 AM
Last Modified: 12/2/2009  3:46 AM

It’s difficult to criticize any measure that deters gang activity. But a bill that is scheduled for early consideration by the state Legislature in its next session needs close scrutiny.

Senate Bill 826 didn’t make the deadline in the House last session but its House authors now expect it to get quick action in the upcoming session.

There are some red flags in this bill. One is the portion that requires school employees and teachers to report students they suspect might be gang members or are associating with gang members. The school superintendent would decide whether to act on the information, either by having a counselor try to dissuade the student from gang involvement or by giving the information to law enforcement officers.

That’s asking a lot of people who likely are not trained to recognize such behavior. Is this another responsibility that we want to place on our teachers and administrators? Will support personnel, such as cafeteria workers, be required to pass along any suspicions they might have?

Rep. Dennis Johnson, R-Duncan, says that school employees and teachers would be protected from civil prosecution, but do we want that assurance to be challenged in court?

The bill would make recruiting members to a criminal street gang a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. And anyone convicted of a crime committed as a condition of gang membership would be sentenced to an additional five years, something that seems would be difficult to prove in court.

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