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Parents discuss gangs in schools with county, city leaders

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Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd alongside Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd alongside Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- A group of Hamilton County parents are rallying together to address the problem of gang members in school.

Hamilton County Parents for Safe Education hosted a meeting Monday night at Tyner Academy, where city and county leaders were in attendance.

At first, the group threw around the idea of creating a 'zero tolerance policy', tossing any known gang member out of school. That drew a lot of people to Monday's meeting.

But now they say that's not the goal. They just want a community effort to stop kids from getting into gangs.

"It has to be an issue or this many people wouldn't show up," Dan Brown says.

Hand after hand flew up to comment, as community members and parents turned out to address the issue of stopping gangs before they start.

"You can't care sitting in the church on Sunday," one member of the community says. "And you can't care not getting out in the street."

"We cannot send them to jail, we cannot run them out of town because some mother will come to my office and I'll have to explain to her how our community let her down," a pastor says.

A group called Hamilton County Parents for Safe Education called Monday night's meeting, trying to come up with solutions for stopping gangs.

"We don't have policies in place right now," group leader Dan Brown says. "We don't have a policy to propose to the school board what we're looking for, community involvement to help decide what those policies should be."

Brown invited Sheriff Jim Hammond, Police Chief Bobby Dodd, Superintendent Rick Smith and other leaders to answer questions.

"The problem that you run into is, that it is very difficult for us as a policy making body to define what gang related activity is," school attorney, Scott Bennett says.

"It can't be law enforcement, in my opinion," Superintendent Smith says. "It can't be the school system."

The general consensus: it's going to take deep community involvement, with one-on-one attention to help kids onto the right track.
"We're not out to throw kids out of school," Brown says."We would love every kid that starts school to finish."

This is the first of many meetings the group hopes to host. Mike Evatt, the school board chairman, tells Channel 3 the Board is looking to create a policy subcommittee to see if there's anything the school system can do policy-wise to help crackdown on gang activity.

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