That fight in the boys' room might not be what it appears, Columbus police Sgt. Chantay M. Boxill frequently tells teachers.
It could be one youth helping another become a member of a street gang.
It's called being "jumped in" or "beaten in," and it's one of the ways in which young people join gangs, Boxill, with the Columbus Division of Police criminal intelligence unit, said last week.
The other ways kids join gangs is by committing a crime at the urging of their sponsors, such as hitting someone over the head and stealing a cellphone, Boxill said. They also can be sponsored or "blessed in" by an influential member of the gang.
A "disturbing trend," she continued, involves a means by which girls can join gangs. It's called getting "sexed in." That means a pair of dice are rolled, and whatever number comes up is how many boys the girls must have sex with in order to become a member.
That's not seen a lot in Columbus, Boxill said, where some girls form their own street gangs rather than have sex with someone not of their choosing.
Members of the division's gangs unit have established criteria for documenting who belongs to a street gang, she said. These include:
* Admission of membership.
* Involvement in documented criminal activity.
* Tattoos, brands or scarring, sometimes seen among children 12 and 13 years old.
* Displays of clothing, colors, symbols or signs associated with a gang.
* The word of a reliable confidential informant.
Among the images Boxill displayed for Northland Block Watch leaders during a meeting last week was one of two boys, perhaps 7 and 9 years old. Both are making gang signs; one is displaying a fanned-out bunch of $50 bills, the other is pointing a toy gun at the camera.
"Somebody's parents thought that was funny," Boxill said.
Young people join gangs "for the same reasons they always have, Boxill added. These include acceptance; love, especially the girls; protection -- a big thing at school; power; companionship; and the cool factor.
Video games that glamorize street gangs and "gangster rappers" help contribute to the latter factor, even among suburban white kids, the veteran police sergeant said.
Columbus has one of the best gangs units in Ohio, Boxill said, adding she's frequently been asked to conduct national training for other law-enforcement agencies.
"I'm going to tell you that so you know we're not talking smack," she said.