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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

‘Teachers feel threatened but aren’t backed up’

Gang graffiti on a fence in suburban Long Island.

Gang graffiti on a fence in suburban Long Island, where police blame MS-13 for 30 murders in the last two years. Photo: Sarah Garland/Hechinger Report

MS-13 gang members have turned a Maryland middle school into a “ticking time bomb,” reports Michael E. Miller in the Washington Post.

Gang-related fights are now a near-daily occurrence at Wirt, where a small group of suspected MS-13 members at the overwhelmingly Hispanic school in Prince George’s County throw gang signs, sell drugs, draw gang graffiti and aggressively recruit students recently arrived from Central America, according to more than two dozen teachers, parents and students. Most of those interviewed asked not to be identified for fear of losing their jobs or being targeted by MS-13. Although administrators deny Wirt has a gang problem, the situation inside the aging, overcrowded building has left some teachers so afraid that they refuse to be alone with their students. Many said they had repeatedly reported incidents involving suspected gang members to administrators, only to be ignored — claims supported by documents obtained by The Washington Post. “Teachers feel threatened but aren’t backed up. Students feel threatened but aren’t protected,” one educator said. “The school is a ticking time bomb.”

MS-13, founded in Los Angeles by Salvadoran immigrants, “has been linked to a string of grisly killings throughout the country,” reports Miller. “The gang’s growth has been fueled by a wave of 200,000 teens who traveled to the United States alone to escape poverty and gang violence in Central America.”

Most stay out of trouble. “A small percentage” are recruited into MS-13.

At the start of the year, administrators ignored complaints about students shouting obscenities, throwing things in class and bullying and sexually harassing classmates, an educator told Miller. Then “the behavior spread to other students.”

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