September was an awful month for the town of Brentwood, New York. On Sept. 13, two teenage girls were found murdered, their bodies dumped near an elementary school. A week later, authorities discovered the skeletal remains of two male teenagers who had been missing for months. In both cases, authorities had a ready suspect: MS-13, a gang connected to Los Angeles and El Salvador, the New York Times reports. The group is prominent in Brentwood, where 68% of the population identifies as Latino or Hispanic and more than 17,000 residents are Salvadoran. While residents say the gang has caused trouble and fought with rivals in the past, the violence has recently turned toward schoolchildren. According to the AP, all four victims attended the same high school.
School officials say gang violence rarely manifests inside the school itself, but administrators admit that they know of several students who may be affiliated. But they also say they cannot ban students suspected of being in gangs from attending school. "That’s state and federal law that they are entitled to an education," the principal of one of Brentwood's two public high schools says. Many parents in the community aren't satisfied with this explanation, especially as violence is becoming increasingly visible in their communities. One gang member has been arrested in connection to the recent murders, though a motive is not yet clear. (Read more gangs stories.)