Long Island students fear gangs in school

Some students at a school district on Long Island say not enough is being done to keep gangs from recruiting on campus. One boy told Fox 5 that he is afraid of MS-13, the violent international gang.

"I just basically stay by myself and don't mess with nobody," one Brentwood High School student said about how deals with the ongoing concerns about gang violence. [Fox 5 concealed his identity  to protect him.]

"I don't walk with my head down because I need to watch behind me, forward, next to me," he said. "You never know what could happen."

In September 2016, members of the vicious MS-13 gang brutally beat best friends Nisa Mickens and Kayla Cuevas to death. Since then, Kayla's mom, Evelyn Rodriguez, has become an advocate for other victims of gang violence. She  said that unfortunately not much has changed. Students are still being bullied in school, she said, and that promises including added surveillance and more security guards haven't been kept.

"Whoever was ready for retirement they got an early package, whoever was part-time moved up to full-time, per diem to part-time," Rodriguez said. "The numbers still remain the same. The 11 new hires were never hired."

Students have said the schools are crowded, not all rules are enforced, and losing track of who belongs is easy.

"I've had kids say 'I don't want to come back to school and I want to leave' because they feel so uncomfortable," said one student. 

Rodriguez said the majority of funding goes to teachers and staff. Physically, the school itself is in disarray.

"The ceilings, the walls, mold covering most of the walls," the student said. "Kids can't breathe in that. It's not good for kids."

Parents also complain about a lack of communication and programs offered to students. School meetings are held every month in the middle of the day when most people work.

"A lot of parents are tired of coming to meetings because all you hear is 'We're working on it and we'll get back to you,'" Rodriguez said. "Those are the two sentences I've heard for over a year and things haven't been accomplished."

The district declined an on-camera interview but a school spokesman told Fox 5 News, "The district services more than 19,000 students some of whom are Siemans scholars, decorated athletes, talented musicians and civically engaged. The district wants to highlight many of the positive stories that are taking place day to day at each of its buildings."

Both Rodriguez and the student we spoke to acknowledged some changes but not nearly enough.