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‘Focus is on learning’: CCSD to limit some online access on student cellphones

Updated May 20, 2024 - 5:27 pm

When the school year ends Monday, the Clark County School District’s 300,000 students will be free to enjoy summer break. When classes start back again on Aug. 12, changes will be in store for many students.

For the next school year, CCSD students in sixth through 12th grades won’t have access to the internet on their cellphones during classes. The students will be able to access cellphones in emergencies and between classes, but their cellphones will be placed in non-locking, signal-blocking pouches during class time.

The district also will require students in those grades to wear ID badges at school.

Meanwhile, Metropolitan Police Department officers will have an increased presence on campuses as the number of district students hurt in traffic accidents while going to or leaving school doubled this year over the previous year.

Those points were among the highlights of a news conference by district and local police officials Tuesday about school safety this year and in anticipation of the 2024-25 term.

‘Our focus is on learning’

Interim Superintendent Brenda Larsen-Mitchell said a big change will be the activation of devices preventing middle school and high school students from using WiFi to go online with their personal cellphones while learning.

“For the upcoming year we will be implementing nonlocking, signal-blocking pouches in grades six through 12, so students will have access to their phones during a crisis situation,” Larsen-Mitchell said. “But the focus will be that they won’t have access to them while they’re learning.”

“Our focus is on learning, so this will eliminate many of the distractions that are caused by cellphones,” Larsen-Mitchell said.

District elementary schools will have the discretion on whether to implement it, she said.

“We worked with our elementary principals,” Larsen-Mitchell said. “Some of them experience high usage of cellphones, others do not.”

Another new policy for sixth through 12th graders will be “requiring students to have an ID badge so we are very well aware of who is on our campus.”

The badges, if lost by a student, would cost $5 to replace, she said.

‘We have to do better for our kids’

CCSD police Chief Henry Blackeye said traffic at school campuses became more dangerous for students this year.

“Last year, I reported 70 students were struck by vehicles on their way to and from school in the school year,” Blackeye said.

“Unfortunately, this year that number has doubled,” Blackeye explained. “We have had a 97 percent increase in the number of students that were struck (while going) to and from school each and every school day.

“I believe the last one occurred yesterday,” he said Tuesday. “We have to do better for our kids. We just have to.”

Driver inattention and speed are the leading causes of the accidents, said Blackeye, who urged members of the public to “please be alert, cautious and careful drivers this summer.”

Fight numbers dip slightly

There is some good news, he said. Fights at district schools declined slightly this year and the number of firearms confiscated from students fell to 24 compared with 31 in 2022-23, Blackeye said.

He attributed the reduction in guns to adults who have gained the trust of students to report seeing a firearm at school, “but also the 1,500 canine sniffs that we have conducted throughout this school year and also the enhanced weapon search program that we’ve increased this school year.”

The district plans to add more metal detectors inside schools by January, Blackeye said.

School police started placing three full-time social workers in each of the district’s three regions this year, resulting in more than 500 referrals from school police “to address social and emotional issues that our officers are observing from our students and our families,” Blackeye said.

Las Vegas police, to help enhance school security, intends to increase the presence of officers next year as students arrive and leave school and in the surrounding neighborhoods on school days, Deputy Chief Branden Clarkson said.

He said traffic safety is the priority and that he wants parents not to be concerned about the additional officers in and around the schools.

“For the parents and motorists around the schools, I ask you to please slow down and pay full attention to the roadways,” Clarkson said.

A previous version of this story has been updated to correctly describe cellphone use restrictions that will take effect next year for some CCSD students.

Contact Jeff Burbank at jburbank@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0382. Follow him @JeffBurbank2 on X.

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