MS-13 gang member went to local schools
CAMPBELL Co., Va. (WSET) -- One of the recently detained MS-13 gang members attended a local Campbell County Schools last year.
Victor Rodas, 19, is charged in connection with the murder of 17-year-old Raymond Wood. He is now being held in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Farmville Detention Center.
Rodas was zoned for Brookville High school but since he transferred from an alternative school in New York in 2015, he was placed in the counties alternative school, Cornerstone.
He then transferred to Brookville High School but got in trouble and was sent back to Cornerstone. However, school administrators say he stopped showing up for school altogether in May of 2016.
So, how was Rodas able to go to a local public school as an undocumented immigrant?
The code of Virginia from the department of education says that students who are illegal aliens cannot be denied enrollment as long as they have residency in the certain district.
Assistant Superintendent Rob Arnold says it's a heavily debated topic but the law requires all children are provided with equal access to public education.
"We cannot bar students from enrolling in schools based on citizenship, and that's based on the 1982 Supreme Court Decision," said Arnold. "We have to base it on residency, and in this case, the student was a resident of Campbell County."
Major L.T. Guthrie with the Campbell County Sheriff's Department says they don't have a gang problem in the county. But he says there has been gang activity at one time or another.
"We've had very few if any incidents of gang activities in our schools," said Assistant Superintendent, Rob Arnold. "And we do take it very seriously and we work very diligently with the Sheriff's Department."
L.T. Guthrie offered some advice to parents on how they can be aware of this kind of activity.
First, find out who your kids friends are. "If they've got a lot of friends that it seems they don't want to introduce to them that could be problematic," said Major L.T. Guthrie.
Pay attention to strange hand signals or different language or changes in behavior. "If they lose interest in school of interest in older friends they've had in a while," said Guthrie.
He says they train school resource officers to look for any signals, gang behavior or graffiti and the goal is to prevent any gang activity before it organizes.
"When gangs are involved in criminal activity it's a problem for everybody not just the school, it's a problem for the entire community," said Guthrie. "So to stop those before they get going I think is very important."
Although a now known MS-13 gang member attended their school just last year, Arnold says they have a strict policy on gangs and train administrators to be on the lookout.
"Our number one priority is providing a safe learning environment for our kids and so if that is disrupted in any way, we're not going to stand for it," said Arnold.
The Campbell County School system says their hearts go out to the family of Raymond Wood and they will continue to do their part to be sure gangs stay out of the local schools.