Santa Cruz symposium geared to prevent gangs


Santa Cruz symposium geared to prevent gangs, bullying 

February 13, 2011

Professors, gang investigators and a Harbor High teacher will present ways to keep kids safe at an upcoming symposium aimed at preventing bullying and gang violence.  The March 11 symposium at the Boardwalk’s Cocoanut Grove is titled “Victim and Perpetrator: Clinical Portraits of Bullies and the Bullied, and Gang-Affiliated Youth.”

Speakers include Ronald G. Slaby, a psychologist and researcher at Harvard Medical School, and Cheryl L. Maxson, a professor at the Department of Criminology at UC Irvine. 

Slaby will give a keynote address on bullying and discuss the Eyes on Bullies prevention program. Maxson will give a keynote address on gangs, including how research can help create better responses. 

Local panelists include sheriff’s Sgt. Roy Morales, who has worked as a gang investigator for about 10 years. He said partnering with schools makes a lot of sense in combatting gangs. 

“The earlier we can get to kids, and to their parents, the more positive impact we can make,” Morales said. “It’s refreshing that people in the northern part of the county are recognizing they also have gang issues. I’m happy people are listening. Prevention and education are crucial.” 

Morales said he expects people will ask him what they always ask him: What is the solution?  He said he believes that if people establish strong partnerships and work together to combat gang violence, statewide, “we can make a real dent.” 

Ron Indra teaches social studies at Harbor High and directs the Safe Schools Project of the Community Foundation. He has seen a lot of bullies and targets in three years as project director, he said. Children are abused because of their weight, ethnicity, sexual orientation and other issues, he said, “We always think Santa Cruz is so loving and accepting and diverse, but that is not always the case,” Indra said.  His next appointment is to help an 8-year-old South County boy who was perceived as being gay and is being harassed by classmates, he said. The child was doing well in school, but now wants to drop out, he said. 

Other calls come from teachers who see bullying in school hallways, administrators, gay students and others, he said. Indra frequently preaches to adults about the power of bystanders, and how bullies must be confronted or all those who see someone walk by without helping might feel unprotected and unsafe. 

He believes more awareness is needed, and a more systematic, preventative approach. 

“It’s about awareness and education and giving people strategies to deal with it,” he said. “It’s about educating the bully, too.” 

The symposium was founded in 1997 by the Nadherny/Calciano family as a way to deal with the tragic loss of their son to suicide. Sponsored by Dominican Hospital, Dominican Hospital Foundation and the Jon E. Nadherny Memorial Fund, it focuses on issues affecting the mental health of young people.  The event has grown dramatically and is filling up quickly this year, said Sam Leask, director of the hospital foundation. 

He expects educators, therapists and others and said some participants can earn continuing education units. 

Other presenters include Santa Cruz police officer Arnold Vasquez, Watsonville police Master Officer Henry Robles and Mike Walker, co-founder of the Central Coast Gang Investigators Association.