The youth risk behavior survey suggests 37 percent of middle schoolers believe gangs are a problem. That's compared to 29 percent of middle school students statewide.
54 percent of Durham high school students have the same concern - compared to 36-percent of high schoolers statewide.
"It is truly perception, and the question reads: would you agree or disagree that there's gang activity in our school," explained Gayle Harris with Durham Public Health.
The county public health department commissioned the random survey of one thousand students. Its findings are already on the agenda of an upcoming school board meeting.
"It's intended to generate discussion in the community for program development, looking at innovative strategies to address the issues, and to begin the dialogue with the community," Harris explained.
Harris said she hoped the dialogue would lead to real solutions.
Malcom Reed, who heads up D3 - a gang intervention program in Durham - said the perception of a gang problem amongst students may be a reality - and that raises questions about school safety.
"I think parents should educate themselves as well to find out what are some factors and key things that show my son and daughter may be participating in a gang," he offered.
At least two dozen Durham County deputies patrol Durham schools. They maintain schools are safe because they can readily identify potential gang members and head off potential problems.
"In the community, there's not enough resources. There's not enough other activities that would actually deter a young person from joining a gang," he said.
The survey isn't just focused on student concerns about gangs. Students opened up substance abuse, sexual behavior, and sleep habits in this survey.
Durham Public Schools says it does use gang prevention strategies in the classroom, including:
-Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT). Officers teach the GREAT curriculum to 4th and 6th grade students.
-DPS partners with law enforcement to provide gang training sessions for all principals.
-School staff training sessions with law enforcement staff.