East Texas schools say Mexican gang recruitment not a problem, yet

By Holley Nees - email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The department of public safety is warning parents against Mexican cartels and gangs recruiting in Texas schools.

East Texas schools say they haven't seen a big increase in Mexican gang recruitment or drug cartels. But they know the problem is there, so they've decided to be proactive. And even though this specific problem is growing along the border, here they are teaching students early on that kind of lifestyle is unacceptable.

Students and teachers are the only people down this hallway and the Diboll ISD police chief wants to keep it that way.

"It is difficult because you are trying to teach them right from wrong and to make good choices and then these people come in with promises of money, cars, social stature," Diboll Police Chief Jason Burrous said.

He's referring to gang recruiters.

"East Texas, we're starting to see an influx of gang activities and things like that," Burrous said. "From law enforcement's perspective it is very difficult because we're starting to see younger and younger and younger kids get involved in those type of activities."

East Texas school districts know starting education early is key.

"I think the earlier you begin, it at least creates an awareness, whether it creates a great understanding or not," LISD Superintendent Roy Knight said.

Because once they hit these halls, many already have some knowledge of gangs.

"We do occasionally have kids that will what we call, "wannabe," John Burnett, Diboll High assistant principal, said. "They will occasionally wear a color."

And although he says it's not a big problem yet, law enforcement encourages parents to stay involved.

"Look for behavioral changes in attitude obviously grades is always going to be an issue," Burrous said. "If the child all of the sudden has things of value such as clothes, shoes, things like that you know that you don't provide for them, you may want to start asking questions."

Because even from an early age, kids want to be included. School administrators just hope they get in with the right crowd.

"Kids are looking for gangs to be a part of, whether it's the band gang, the football gang, the baseball gang, or other gangs, we just want them to be the right, healthy kind of gangs," Knight said.

Knight says as unfortunate as it is, there are people out there willing to exploit children so parents should not be afraid to ask questions or even contact their child's school district.

©2009 KTRE. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.