The Observer on Sunday recently interviewed a group of local high school students, ages 15 to 17, to get their perspective on the gang problem. The group of approximately seven students agreed to the interview on the condition that they would not be identified by this publication.
Upon speaking with the younger generation, one is struck by the impression that they don’t seem to be quite as concerned about the gang problem as some of their elders.
But on the other hand, there’s no doubt in their minds that high school of today is a tough place.
“Yesterday (prior to the day of the interview, which was in mid-December), there was, like, six fights at school,” said one 16-year-old female John Gray High School student.
A boy, a 17-year-old former John Gray student, said he had to “walk the halls with clenched fists” after breaking up a fight his friend was involved in.
None of the fights described by the teens were gang-related. But these kids know that gangs are there – both inside and outside of the classroom.
“The Fern Circle gang has the label on their bags to let people know,” one 15-year-old John Gray student says. “You notice it, but it’s not like we can really do anything about it ‘cause it’s like a lot of them versus a little bit of us.”
Other students described how certain groups of kids mark off their “territory” inside the school buildings by drawing gang graffiti there. The gang members generally tend to congregate in those areas between class periods.
The 17-year-old former John Gray student says he believes the gang problem isn’t as bad as some want to make it out.
“Gangs are formulated in schools by districts,” he says. “It’s only natural because of the fact that you were grouped together from primary. And you stuck with that group of friends.”
“I’ve hung out in places where I know that gang activity is at its highest in Cayman,” the teen continues. “When you’re amongst them, there is a sense of brotherhood. There’s no demand to prove yourself in any way; it’s relaxing. But to me it’s just senseless time wasting.”
Sometimes it’s a thin line, but the students say there’s a point at which a group of friends hanging around together becomes a gang involved in criminal activity. The less academically inclined the student is, the more likely it is they will fall into the latter category, the teens say.
“The education system is tailored to those who are more academically inclined,” the former John Gray student says. “There are aspects where they try to take care of the other students, but its not being treated equally.”
The 16-year-old female John Gray student disagrees: “Some of them are just stubborn and they don’t care.”
“It’s because the education they’re getting don’t interest them,” the former John Gray student replies.
The high school students said there are problems with older family members or friends of certain classmates who hang around school generally after class lets out for the day. Some of these individuals are believed to be gang members and drug dealers.
A few years ago, some of the older men managed to slip into the school building during a fight, the students say.
“Everybody knows about it, but nobody has the drive to go and do something about it,” a 15-year-old student says, referring to school security and administrators. “A lot of people show they’re not scared, but deep down inside they are scared and they’re not doing anything about it.”
Another classmate, a 17-year-old disagrees: “I don’t really think they’re scared, I just think they’re not seeing nothing because (these older guys) aren’t troubling them.”
The students also spoke about what they perceived as a rising trend amid the middle schoolers; known as “gaza versus gully.”
Gaza and Gully are nicknames for the two leading “badmen” purveyors of dancehall music coming out of Jamaica, Vybz Cartel and Mavado. The high schoolers said some of the younger kids are talking about being “gaza” or “gully” and don’t even know what the words stand for.
“But they’re listening to the dancehall music,” says the former John Gray student.
One local police officer, who also did not want to be identified for this story, warned parents that dancehall music can often contain violent messages and advised parents of younger children to be wary of what their kids are listening to.