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Bills would give more students breakfast, provide anti-bullying office

CARSON CITY — A Senate committee on Friday heard two bills tied to Gov. Brian Sandoval’s education agenda — providing breakfast in more schools for low-income students and establishing a new office within the Department of Education to combat bullying.

No action was taken by the Senate Finance Committee on either measure, though passage is likely. Both were endorsed earlier by the Senate Committee on Education.

Senate Bill 504 would set up an office for safe and respectful learning environment with the Nevada Department of Education and under the state superintendent. It would establish a hotline for parents, students or others to report bullying and ensure resources to conduct investigations, said Michon Martin, Sandoval’s chief general counsel.

Sandoval has also included a new program in his budget called Social Workers in Schools, which would provide $36 million in grants to combat bullying. There is no state funding now.

In earlier testimony before legislative education committees, parents gave gut-wrenching accounts of how bullying in school led their children to commit or contemplate suicide. Mary Bryan and Aimee Hairr claim in a lawsuit filed against school district officials that their sons were shoved, called homophobic names and stabbed with trombones. One boy was stabbed in the groin with a pencil and the other contemplated suicide.

In another case, White Middle School student Hailee Lamberth committed suicide and pointed to bullying as a reason in her suicide note, according to her father, who said school officials did not tell him about the harassment until he received a tip to request her student file after her death.

The other bill heard by the committee Friday was Senate Bill 503. It would provide $2 million over the upcoming two-year budget cycle for grants so more schools can offer breakfast to low-income students, a program called “breakfast after the bell.”

Jim Barbee, director of the Nevada Department of Agriculture, said schools where 70 percent of the student population is eligible for free or reduced-price lunches would be eligible for grants to help them implement the program.

The bill would allow schools to decide how best to implement it, whether students are served in a cafeteria or given “grab-and-go” sacked meals.

Officials estimate nearly 94,000 students in 120 schools across Nevada could benefit from the program. In Clark County, officials said 82 schools that don’t already have breakfast programs would be added.

Administration officials said the program in Nevada would leverage roughly $16 million in reimbursements from the federal government.

Contact Sandra Chereb at schereb@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901. Find her on Twitter: @SandraChereb

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