Salisbury seminar's objective is to stifle gangs
The Daily Times

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SALISBURY -- A gang awareness training seminar is scheduled to be held at James M. Bennett High School. Part of the U.S. Department of Justice's Gang Resistance Education and Training, or GREAT, program, the seminar is expected to feature presentations by gang violence experts and former gang members.

"We welcome anyone from the community with an interest to attend," said Cathy Townsend, Wicomico County supervisor of safe schools.

She said the training session at JMB was initiated by the Governor's Office and Delegate Jim Mathias, D-38B-Worcester, after an evaluation of gang statistics showed increased activity in the area.

She said recent policy changes to the Wicomico County public schools dress code give administrators more power to keep students from wearing gang-affiliated clothing.

One of the seminar's expert presenters, Mark Bowen, who previously worked as an administrator for Wicomico County schools, recently helped educate school officials about gang indicators at a special academy during the summer, Townsend said.

Another speaker at the seminar, Billy Stanfield, is expected to talk about his involvement in and path out of gang life.

Stanfield became a motivational speaker after he was shot in both legs and shortly after arrested on federal drug trafficking charges for which he served five years in federal prison.

After his release, he began speaking out against violence at high schools and penal facilities across the country. Currently, he works in partnership with The Center for Neighborhood Enterprise's Violence Free Zone Initiative in several high schools in Baltimore.

Claude Nelson with the Maryland Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or DARE, office is also scheduled to speak on techniques for resisting gangs and group violence.

The event's agenda concludes with a student and parent panel discussion and followed by a question-and-answer session.

Organizers said the aim of the event was to enhance knowledge of the serious violence committed by gang members; provide the facts and indicators of gang initiations and gang members on school property; explain new laws, policies and school procedures and discuss future steps that can be taken at the school level.

"We need to band together as a community to stop this," Townsend said.

A meet and greet with refreshments is scheduled to take place before the seminar. The training is sponsored by the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention.