Last year, members of the street gang MS-13 attacked three high school students they suspected of being rivals in the central Long Island city of Brentwood. The Dec. 6 arrests of five gang members thwarted what police say would have been the sixth murder of a Brentwood High School student by MS-13 in less than two years, the Washington Post reports. Four of the suspects attended Brentwood, three of whom were unaccompanied minors who had been caught at the border and then placed in the community by a federal refugee program. From New York to Virginia to Texas, schools are struggling with a sobering question. What to do when MS-13 gang members are in classrooms?
The Trump administration has waged a crackdown on MS-13. Nowhere has this effort been more intense than in Suffolk County, N.Y., where police say the gang has committed 27 murders since a surge of unaccompanied minors began arriving in 2013. In his January State of the Union address, the president recounted the story of Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens, two Brentwood High students killed by MS-13 in 2016. “Many of these gang members took advantage of glaring loopholes in our laws to enter the country as unaccompanied alien minors and wound up in Kayla and Nisa’s high school,” the president said as the girls’ parents wiped away tears. Brentwood High has been criticized both for doing too little and too much about the problem. A federal lawsuit by Kayla’s mother claims administrators failed to protect her 16-year-old, allowing MS-13 to create an “environment filled with fear within the school.” A class-action suit by the American Civil Liberties Union against the Trump administration alleges the school went too far, hastily labeling kids as gang members and leading to their wrongful imprisonment.