Orange County info session teaches parents about warning signs of children joining gangs

District officials and law enforcement gave tips on how to prevent students from getting into gang-related activity

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County Public Schools is working with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and parents to prevent students from going down the wrong path.

The district hosts programs called Parent Academy. Monday night’s program was an informational session about gang violence.

During the meeting, a deputy with the OCSO gang unit described the warning signs and how parents can be proactive.

“How can you identify if someone you know and love might be getting too close to a gang or gang members, and how can we try to stop it?” an OCSO deputy said.

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The deputy’s presentation gave parents insight about what it means to be affiliated with a gang. Law enforcement also shared how parents can spot the signs before it’s too late.

Dionne Turner has a 7th grader in the district. She said the presentation was very helpful.

“If you see your kid dressing in something or throwing some gang signs or they on their Facebook doing some certain things, that’s the time to catch it at home. You don’t want it to have to get outside of the home,” Turner said.

This meeting was held at Carver Middle School, which is in OCPS school board member Vicki Felder’s district.

She helped coordinate the town hall after learning of concerns from parents.

“We have had a series of community fights and gangs...” Felder said. “The school is fully aware. We are not asleep.”

OCPS staff said they need the parents to be their partners.

“It takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to support a child,” Felder said.

Mary Bridges, the executive director of student services for OCPS, also said collaboration is imperative.

“If we all partner together to make sure the students are safe and also make sure that they are getting the resources they need so they can be successful in school and not go down a path that might lead to gangs,” Bridges said.

Both school staff and law enforcement told parents that prevention starts at home.

“Just because someone’s in a gang, we don’t arrest them. We don’t take them into mental health counseling. We interact with them. We try to give them a little come-to-Jesus moment. Sometimes, it’s lost on people. We like to hope just one person, it changes their life,” an OCSO deputy said.

It’s not illegal to be in a gang, but it is possible for gang members to commit crimes.

Law enforcement officers urge parents to catch the signs early before the issue escalates.

OCPS staff suggest keeping children occupied with after-school activities offered through the district to prevent them from joining a gang.

You can find more information about those activities on

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Treasure joined News 6 at the start of 2021, coming to the Sunshine State from Michigan.