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          Front Page  education

APS: Gang, Gun Reports at 3-Year Low

By Russell Contreras
Journal Staff Writer
    Gang-related activity and firearm violations at Albuquerque Public Schools fell to a three-year low in 2003-2004, according to the district's annual report on school safety.
    However, the number of drug, alcohol and overall weapon violations all rose from the previous year.
    According to the annual report, which is required by state law, the number of reported gang-related violations fell to seven cases in 2003-2004. That's a decline of 13 cases from the previous year.
    The number of reported firearm violations fell to just two cases in 2003-2004, a decline of eight cases from the previous year, according to the report. The first case involved a 13-year-old student who was found with a handgun at Truman Middle School. The other involved a student who had an unloaded shotgun in his vehicle at Albuquerque High School.
    But overall weapons violations were up by 22 cases from the previous year, drug violations jumped by 104 cases, and alcohol violations spiked by 20 cases.
    APS officials say the number of cases in those categories rose because of increased law enforcement presence and improved accuracy in reporting.
    They said they were generally pleased with the findings, which were released Wednesday.
    "The district and the community continue to make significant progress in keeping students safe and informing young people of the consequences of bringing guns to school," APS Superintendent Elizabeth Everitt said. "We believe that there has to be a comprehensive approach to school safety involving not only police, but also counselors, nurses, teachers and parents."
    Everitt said the district this year expanded a number of programs aimed at safety. It has 57 anti-bully and 75 mediation programs in schools.
    "Probably our most successful programs deal with peer mediation because they demonstrate to students that there are alternatives to violence," said Lynn Pedraza, director of APS Health/Mental Health Services. "While there are more reports of violence at the high school level, we have to start the education and intervention process at the elementary and middle school levels."
    APS police chief Gil Lavato credited the Youth Corps program for the drop in gang activity. The program places uniformed APS officers at schools.