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‘Good teacher’ could face prison time for not reporting gun, police say

Heidi Jordan tutored James Jones for the stressful math proficiency test, which is required to graduate.

"I passed," said Jones, 17, outside Mojave High School on Friday afternoon. "She’s a good teacher. She interacts with the kids. I just think she got a little bit too close (to her students)."

Jordan, a third-year teacher, is facing a possible one- to six-year term in prison and the loss of her job as a special education teacher for failing to act on information that two of her students brought a semiautomatic handgun to the school, near the intersection of North Fifth Street and east Washburn Road in North Las Vegas.

Clark County School District police said no one was threatened or injured in the incident and they didn’t think the students meant to harm anyone. The two students were arrested on charges of possession of a weapon on school property and having an unregistered gun. They were placed in a juvenile detention center. Their names were not released since they are juveniles.

In three separate instances since Tuesday, Jordan "suspected there was a gun, she heard talk of a gun but yet failed to properly notify any authority, either staff or police," said police Detective Mitch Maciszak.

The teacher did not offer any explanation for "not acting reasonably," Maciszak said.

But Jordan, 32, did acknowledge that she "made a mistake and agreed that someone could have been killed or injured," the police report stated.

The 9 mm gun was loaded with four cartridges.

Under Nevada law, teachers are "mandatory reporters" of danger to children, Maciszak said.

A school police officer for eight years, Maciszak said this was the first time he knew of a teacher getting criminally charged for child endangerment and contributing to the delinquency of a minor in Clark County.

On Thursday, Jordan was placed in the Clark County Detention Center under a $3,200 bond but has since been released.

Attempts to contact her were unsuccessful Friday.

Campus police found the gun in a student’s backpack on Thursday after getting tips from other Mojave students.

The two juvenile males who were charged with possession of a weapon on school property quickly implicated their teacher, Maciszak said.

According to the police report, Jordan had suspicions about the gun since Tuesday when she overheard the two students talking about "four bullets and a possibly ‘a clip.’ "

While Jordan knew they were talking about a gun, she thought the students were talking about a neighborhood situation and not something directly related to school, she told police.

On Wednesday, the two students passed the gun to each other in her classroom. One student told police that Jordan admonished them "not to bring the gun to school again." In her version, Jordan said she saw "the students exchange something" and suspected it was a gun but did not tell anyone.

One of the student suspects said Jordan urged him in a hallway conversation on Wednesday to "be careful and get rid of it." Jordan said she suspected the student had either a gun or drugs but never notified authorities.

Because no one was injured, Jordan faces a class B felony, which is punishable by one to six years in prison. Under state law, a teacher can be fired for the conviction of a felony, professional neglect of duty and creating a breach in security.

Jordan has been "assigned to home" pending the results of a district investigation.

Because it’s a personnel matter, Mojave High School officials declined comment. Chris Garvey, the School Board member whose district includes Mojave, also declined to talk about the teacher but said she is glad the system worked.

"We were able to enforce our zero tolerance" against weapons on campus, she said.

Garvey was pleased that students did what the teacher failed to do — report the gun to the campus police officers on Thursday.

The students were "strong enough to stand up and say, ‘We want to protect our student body,’ " Garvey said. "That shows character."

School Police Sgt. Phil Gervasi, president of the Police Officers Association of the Clark County School District, the police union, said the Mojave High incident shows the need for a strong police presence on campus since teachers can’t always be counted on to do the right thing.

Mojave’s police officers had a good enough rapport with the students to get valuable information that outside police officers or less professional security guards might never get, he said.

Otherwise, "That gun might still be out there," Gervasi said.

Maciszak said he did not think the two students who brought the gun to campus meant to harm anyone.

"They didn’t brandish the weapon, they didn’t threaten anyone at school," he said. "At no time did their handling of the weapon put anybody in danger."

They were special education students, but they knew the difference between right and wrong, Maciszak said.

Tyrenah Johnson, 17, also does not think the pair meant to harm anyone. The gun was their way of saying "don’t mess with me."

"It’s just how people think around here," Johnson said. "They’re stupid."

According to the school accountability report for Mojave, 14 students were either suspended or expelled for "violence to other students" last year but there was only one incident of a weapon on campus.

While in a state of disbelief over the inaction of the teacher, Johnson said students were not too alarmed by the latest report of a gun at school.

"It seems like we’re used to it," Johnson said. "It’s just another day."

Contact reporter James Haug at jhaug@reviewjournal.com or 702-374-7917.

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