Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval announced Monday that he will create a task force to recommend a series of school safety initiatives for inclusion in the final state budget prepared on his watch.
“I have the benefit of building the next budget, which will be hopefully completed by the end of August,” he said. “This is a priority for me that I want to see go into the budget.”
Sandoval, who is in his final year as governor, announced the move after a two-hour meeting with school superintendents to discuss school safety in the aftermath of the shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school last month that left 17 dead.
He said he would sign an executive order by the end of the week creating the task force of superintendents, parents, students, behavioral health specialists and others and instruct them to craft recommendations.
The two-term Republican won’t control implementation of the budget, however. That will be up to the next governor and the Legislature, which will reconvene next year.
Discussions among those present Monday suggested the task force will look at more funding for social workers and police officers on campus, among other measures. All 17 of the state’s school districts are short of both, but the problem tends to be worst in rural areas.
In Humboldt County, for example, one school resource officer provides security across 11 campuses, said Superintendent Dave Jensen. He’d like to have more, but he said he relies on the positive relationships the district has with other law enforcement officials.
“Even though we’re spread out wide … we have immediate access to law enforcement when we have an issue,” he said.
When asked about arming teachers, a suggestion floated by President Donald Trump and other federal officials, Sandoval said there is a difference of opinion among superintendents in Nevada. He pointed to existing state law, which says individuals can carry firearms on campus with written permission from a school or district official.
“The consensus was most of the school districts choose not to do that,” he said.
But Sandoval and superintendents declined to say which districts are making use of the law or how many people may be armed on campuses. In response to a public records request by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Clark County School District said it had no record of anyone have written permission to carry a weapon on campus.
Having access to mental health professionals is also an issue, with Sandoval acknowledging that not all districts currently receive funding for school social workers. Officials want to explore new ways of funding mental health professionals and measures that could include telemedicine, he said.
Until then, districts will make do, said Dan Wold, the superintendent of Eureka County. He noted that the small size and limited funding in rural districts can be both a blessing and a curse.
“Because we know all of our students in these smaller districts, we’ve able to intervene” when kids are struggling, he said. “These things (school shootings) have happened enough now where patterns are starting to emerge. I’ve had staff trainings on what to look for.”
Students in the lead
Superintendents also said they were looking for ways to engage students to take a more active role. Clark County Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky reported students who sit on a special advisory council are looking to make more connections with classmates.
“Just connecting to somebody within the schools can make a huge difference for those students,” Skorkowsky said.
In Lyon County, Wayne Workman said he’s encouraging schools to use data from the state’s school climate survey to help make positive changes.
“The answer does lay with our students, and we’ve fortunate to work with a lot of superintendents and principals that recognize our students hold a lot of those answers,” he said.