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Judge hears arguments over CCSD police records in Durango HS incident

A Las Vegas judge questioned attorneys on Thursday about an investigative report the Clark County School District has refused to release as public records related to a police altercation with students in February near Durango High School.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, which is representing two Durango students involved in the confrontation, has sued the school district for release of the records.

The lawsuit was filed after video posted to social media in February appeared to show district police officer Lt. Jason Elfberg pushing a Black student onto the ground and putting a knee onto the student’s back. The student had appeared to be recording the arrest of other juveniles, and the district has said the confrontation stemmed from an investigation into a report of a firearm near a school.

Thursday’s court hearing centered on an investigative report the ACLU said it requested in its initial public records request. Attorney Jackie Nichols, who represents the school district, said the report is confidential because the district did not reprimand or take any punitive action against the officer.

“How do we know that the district doesn’t say, ‘OK, if we don’t take punitive action then we don’t have to disclose these reports,’ ” District Judge Danielle Chio asked.

Nichols told the judge that the district has an interest in ensuring its employees “follow its policies and procedures.” She also argued that the ACLU has changed its request multiple times to include more records, although ACLU attorney Christopher Peterson argued that the organization’s initial request was for all documents related to the investigation.

Peterson also argued that although the district said Elfberg could be subjected to harassment and scrutiny if the records were made public, the privacy concerns are hypothetical.

“What stigma has he suffered? What harm has he suffered? Who is harassing him? Identify them, please,” Peterson said.

ACLU of Nevada Executive Director Athar Haseebullah told reporters that the school district has been “disingenuous” and has given conflicting statements about which records are in the organization’s possession.

In June, a district spokesman said the body-camera footage of the confrontation was sent to Juvenile Court, and the district no longer had it. On Thursday, Nichols said the district has an investigative file that includes the body-worn camera footage, dispatch records and officers’ statements.

“They’re looking for every single reason to not release any of this information, which makes us wonder what is included within that information,” Haseebullah said.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240.

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