weather icon Mostly Cloudy
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

Protesters criticize CCSD police in wake of Durango High altercation

Updated February 17, 2023 - 9:03 pm

Dozens of community members protested outside the Clark County School District office Friday night following a week of outcry from local organizations in response to video of a school police officer’s altercation with a Black student.

Approximately 100 people protested in response to the altercation, which occurred on Feb. 9 at Durango High School. Police initially responded to the school after a report of a firearm near a school, the district said in a statement.

No Racism in Schools, one of the community organizations organizing Friday’s protest, described the altercation as a violent assault by the officer against the student.

A video posted to social media of the alleged altercation shows a school police officer grabbing a student as he appears to be recording video on his cellphone of another student being handcuffed and escorted to a police vehicle. The officer grabs the student who is recording and pulls him onto the ground next to the vehicle, placing a knee on his back.

“I was immediately enraged, and I just wanted to run to the family and support the parents and the students because I know how traumatizing it could be,” Jshauntae Marshall, the co-founder of the organization, said of watching the video.

Other organizations including the NAACP, the National Organization for Women, Moms Demand Action, and the Black Leadership Collective were present at the protest and called for school police reform.

The district did not produce copies of the Feb. 9 incident report or body camera footage of the altercation Friday.

On Monday, Superintendent Jesus Jara said he had directed school police to review their use-of-force policy and protocols. The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada announced Wednesday that it would be representing the students involved in the altercation.

‘A target on our back’

Other speakers at Friday’s protest included Quentin Savwoir, president of the Las Vegas chapter of the NAACP, who asked protesters to attend the next Clark County School District Board of Trustees meeting, call their individual trustees and call the office of District Attorney Steve Wolfson regarding the video.

Others suggested removing police officers from district schools and requiring curriculum regarding students’ civil rights.

Rebecca Haile, a senior at Nevada State High School, told the crowd she was disgusted by what she saw in the video. As the oldest of four children, Haile said she thought of her younger siblings while she watched.

“We feel like we have a target on our back. When we’re walking around campus, we see the police, we instantly feel tense,” she said. “At this point it’s second nature. We are always feeling like we’re watched, and we have to think about the movements that we’re doing, the behavior, the way we talk, how loud we are.”

In a letter addressed to Jara and the Clark County School Board, several organizations called for the firing of the officer captured on video and asked for changes in policy around police use of force against students.

The officer was identified Wednesday in a joint statement from the NAACP and the National Action Network as Lt. Jason Elfburg.

“We demand the immediate termination of the officer involved in the verbal and physical assault of a CHILD,” the letter read. “The officer used a chokehold and a potentially fatal restraint hold while placing his knee on the child’s back while simultaneously shoving another child.”

Protesters chanted “No justice, no peace!” and “Whose streets? Our streets!” during the demonstration.

Many held signs facing oncoming traffic on West Sahara Avenue, with signs reading “End police brutality,” and “Money for schools, not police.”

School police Chief Mike Blackeye said the involved officer was assigned to other duties until the investigation is complete. He said the agency is organizing a committee of community members to share ideas about student and staff safety with police.

“What if it happens to me next, what if it happens to my friend next, my neighbor? We have to come out and support each other every single time,” Haile said.

Contact David Wilson at dwilson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @davidwilson_RJ on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.