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Bill to boost safety in Nevada schools draws strong support

A new bill that would enact school safety measures recommended by former Gov. Brian Sandoval’s school safety task force drew strong support from educators, mental health professionals and residents who stressed the need to be prepared for crises on campus.

The bill, heard in a joint meeting of the Assembly and Senate education committees, would require the governor to appoint a statewide school safety committee. It would also develop recommended staff-to-student ratios for school counselors, psychologists, social workers, nurses, speech-language pathologists and library media specialists.

Yet the legislation would also tackle the disproportionality of discipline. Certain minority groups, such as African-Americans, are disciplined at a higher rate not proportionate to the overall population. It would amend a law to require principals to create a plan for restorative rather than progressive discipline.

The state Division of Emergency Management would also review the emergency response plans of school districts under the bill.

Legislators heard strong support for the bill and a strong push from Clark County Education Association members to provide the appropriate funding for such safety measures.

Paige Myers, a school psychologist, described the day her school went into a hard lockdown and she found herself having to choose among elementary students to comfort: the girls crying in a circle, the boy in a fetal position or the boy asking if they were safe.

“The culture of our school has changed. Students and teachers are fearful more so than they were before because of what we went through that day,” she said. “I really hope that you guys can hear these recommendations and truly understand that we need the funding to truly implement them.”

The ACLU of Nevada also voiced concern over increasing police presence in school, a recommendation of the task force that has also been incorporated in Gov. Steve Sisolak’s proposed budget.

“More police in schools will only harm Nevada’s most vulnerable students,” said Holly Welborn, the group’s policy director, in a statement. “Restorative justice practices, increased mental health and behavioral supports, and better de-escalation training is the smart way to protect our children’s safety.”

The committees heard another bill that would make the blueprint of a public school confidential and would require the most current version of a school’s layout to be disclosed to a public safety agency upon request.

No action was taken on the bill Monday.

Contact Amelia Pak-Harvey at apak-harvey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4630. Follow @AmeliaPakHarvey on Twitter.

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