Former Gang Member Speaks to Students

Efforts are underway to address alleged gang activity in schools. Kemper County High School invited a former gang member to speak to students Tuesday.

A month ago, there was tension at the campus after text messages circulated claiming their would be violence at the school. Nothing happened.

"There's been a great improvement since that time. The kids are acting much better," said principal Mary Smart.

Since the outburst of alleged gang-related activity, police say they haven't even received any further reports. School officials credit at least part of this to the district's approach to addressing the problem.

"We have a school counselor. We also have a mental health counselor that comes in some of the students go to the mental health counselor. Some of the students have had psychiatric evaluation since the last disturbance we had here at Kemper County High," Smart said.

Also people from throughout the community are being brought in to help address the problem. Reformed gang leader, William Perry McClelland, spoke to students.

"I'm not active with the organization, because I don't condone the things that are going on, but I do affiliate with the men in the organization," McClelland said.

McClelland, who spent 11 years in prison on a drug charge, says he still finds it important to associate to some degree with gang members in hopes of reaching them and students, such as the ones at Kemper County High.

"A young lady came up to me and said, 'you are very much inspiration to me' and a young man said that he was affiliated with a gang but he was not in one and I hope that he doesn't get in," McClelland said.

"I could tell by their silence, apparently they were really paying attention and listening," said Coach Jerry Byrd of the basketball and football staff.-

This is something that McClelland and school officials say they hope will pay off in the long run.

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