Red or Blue?

A few days ago, our officers responded to reported gang activity at a local elementary school. There, the officers learned that three sixth grade girls were questioning students during class breaks.

“Which color is better, red or blue?” they asked.

If a student choose red, the girls were quick to correct them, saying blue is the better color. This eventually lead to six boys from the school (including a 9 year old) claiming to represent either red or blue, and planning a fight to settle the question. This activity around gangs, especially by elementary school students, is very concerning.

You see, our community has recently experienced several violent crimes involving gangs, including a recent shooting near a city park and a violent stabbing in an apartment complex. These events should not occur within our community and our officers are working non-stop to arrest those involved.

But solving these crimes can be difficult. Gang members are taught from an early age to dislike rival gang members, and they are quick to retaliate to protect others within their gang. Unfortunately, gang members are taught from an early age to hate “snitches”–people who cooperate with law enforcement. This culture often leaves violent incidents with few witnesses; even victims are less-than-willing participants in solving their crimes. 

Sadly, these rules governing gang behavior start early, as early as elementary school.

Here in Ukiah, the Ukiah Police Department (UPD) and the Ukiah Unified School District (UUSD) have a long-standing partnership to provide gang resistance training to fifth graders; but competing against what kids learn in their neighborhoods, from friends, or sometimes even from family members can be a daunting task when it comes to combating gangs. We definitely need all the help we can get to prevent kids from joining gangs.

That’s where Principal Dana Milani and everyone at Yokayo Elementary School should be commended.

Principal Milani is proud to say that Yokayo Elementary students are taught that character counts–all day, every day. Yokayo is a kindness-certified school where students learn to be people of character who consistently demonstrate six traits: Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship. They’re taught to be TRRFCC!

Principal Milani says these six character traits are incorporated in everything the school tries to do. The school has signs throughout the campus promoting the six traits. They have an assembly every six weeks to discuss them. They create homemade videos highlighting successes in which students displayed one or more of these traits, and they have made these traits part of life in the classroom every day.  

This year, Principal Milani and her staff introduced the school to Rachel’s Challenge. Rachel Joy Scott was one of the students killed in the tragic Columbine High School incident. After her death, her family found a number of journals talking about kindness, finding compassion for others, and how to start a chain reaction of change.

When her family discovered an outline drawing of Rachel’s hands behind her bedroom dresser with the words, “These hands belong to Rachel Joy Scott and will someday touch millions of people’s hearts,” they decided to put Rachel’s dreams into motion. The family established, a program that helps people focus on kindness and compassion, and how to use them to create change.

To bring the program to Ukiah, Principal Milani solicited community donations and provided a day of age-appropriate training through three sessions: a session for kindergarteners through third graders, a session for fourth graders through sixth graders, and an evening session for adults to teach more about kindness and how to foster it in our community.  

Eliminating gangs and violence in our community is a difficult task, but the great work being done at Yokayo Elementary School is going to help us reach our goal of ending violence. Thanks, Yokayo!

As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have suggestions on how we can improve please feel free to call me. If you would like to know more about crime in your neighborhood, you can sign up for telephone, cell phone and email notifications by clicking the Nixle button on our website:

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