Nevada schools would implement a less punitive, more reflective form of discipline under a new bill heard by the Assembly Committee on Education on Tuesday.
Assembly Bill 168, sponsored by Assemblyman Tyrone Thompson, D-North Las Vegas, and Assemblywoman Selena Torres, D-Las Vegas, would require schools to provide a restorative justice action plan for students 10 years or older on their first offense of battery on an employee or distribution of controlled substances at school — two offenses that currently require suspension or expulsion under state law.
Such a plan could include behavioral intervention and referrals to a student support team or community services.
The goal of the bill — formed with input from the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance — is to stem the school-to-prison pipeline and keep youth out of the justice system.
It comes as the Clark County School District has launched its own initiative to cut the number of school police referrals to the court system by 20 percent. African-American students, in particular, make up a disproportionate amount of disciplinary referrals for suspension, expulsion or behavioral school in the district.
The bill also forbids the suspension or permanent expulsion of children who are considered exempt from criminal liability — which includes those under age 10.
They may still face those disciplinary actions, however, if they commit battery on an employee with injury, distribute a controlled substance or bring a dangerous weapon to school.
A school may also request an exception to suspend or permanently expel such students in extraordinary circumstances.
“We believe that our state’s attention and resources should be directed towards providing resources and educational opportunities for youth,” Lisa Morris Hibbler, director of Youth Development and Social Innovation for the city of Las Vegas, said in support of the bill. “And AB 168 is the right step in that direction.”
The Nevada State Education Association testified neutral on the bill, noting a need for a more robust restorative discipline process and the need for any physical assault on educators to be taken seriously.