June 28, 2018 - 10:08 am
Updated June 28, 2018 - 5:17 pm
Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt released a wide-ranging set of recommendations on school safety Thursday, but there’s no clear idea of what the measures may cost or who would foot the bill.
The report stems from a school safety summit Laxalt held in March with education and safety officials after a Feb. 14 shooting at a school in Parkland, Florida, reignited the national conversation on school safety nationwide. During that summit, he stressed prioritizing the physical safety and “hardening” of schools to make it more difficult for an assailant to enter campus.
“Our goal was to provide as much information as humanly possible,” Laxalt, the Republican candidate for governor, told the Review-Journal on Thursday.
On funding, he said it would be a “balancing act” that would be up to the next Legislature and governor to work on.
The seven major themes of the report including increasing police presence, adding new safety features, improving communication between schools and law enforcement officials and enacting “red flag” laws to evaluate potential threats with a nexus to mental illness or domestic violence.
Governor Brian Sandoval, who also convened a school safety task force in the wake of the Parkland shooting, declined to comment on the report. Laxalt said he will send the report to the governor’s task force for consideration.
Laxalt recommends districts attempt to move toward having a police officer in every school, although the report recognizes that is often cost prohibitive, particularly in the rural areas.
The report incorrectly notes the officers serving in Clark County schools are Metropolitan Police Department officers. The school district has its own police department, although often works with Metro when responding to incidents.
There are some physical recommendations, including more clearly marking school buildings from the outside to ensure law enforcement reporting to scene can find the right location, increasing perimeter fencing and having one entry on all campuses. The report also recommends reducing shrubbery outside the school so an active assailant cannot hide.
The report includes other actionable items, many of which the Legislature would need to take up. Laxalt recommends clarifying an exemption to the state’s public records law so that law enforcement can share emergency response plans confidentially. He wants to expand some privacy measures through a new anti-bullying app, called Safe Voice, by changing Nevada Administrative Code.
Christy McGill, who works in the Nevada Department of Education and oversees anti-bullying efforts, said in a statement the recommendations would be helpful as conversations around school safety continue.
“Teamwork will be key as schools, law enforcement, students, parents, community and mental health come together to create safe and respectful schools,” she said.
Laxalt also issued a memorandum on the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act to clarify when it’s appropriate for school districts to immediately share information with law enforcement. FERPA generally protects student information, and there have been cases where schools have been hesitant to share information because they do not want to violate FERPA. The memorandum clarifies emergency cases.
The report also does not mention whether Laxalt thinks districts should take advantage of an existing Nevada law which allows principals to give employees written permission to carry guns in schools. On Thursday, he reiterated he thinks that should be a local decision.
“It’s certainly not something we talked about as a statewide solution,” he said.
Most of the state’s 17 districts — including Clark County — do not allow principals to give teachers permission, although there’s been increased conversation around the topic.
Background check law
On Thursday, Nevada Democrats spokeswoman Helen Kalla said it was clear Laxalt scrambled to finish the report after the group criticized him for how long it took to be compiled.
“The fact is that Laxalt is nothing more than a puppet for the Washington gun lobby, even working with them to block the ballot measure to expand background checks, which he has since refused to work to enforce after Nevada voters approved it,” Kalla said in a statement.
The campaign for Steve Sisolak, the Democrat running for governor, cited Laxalt’s conclusion that a voter-approved background check law cannot be legally enforced as reason to dismiss the attorney general’s safety plan.
“Adam Laxalt can’t even be trusted to work to enforce the voter-approved background check law,” campaign press secretary Christina Amestoy said. “As governor, Steve will take every common sense step he can to keep our children safe.”
Chaired by former state superintendent Dale Erquiaga, the 25-person group convened by Governor Brian Sandoval is set to deliver a set of recommendations in July. Sandoval will consider the recommendations and may build them into his draft budget.
During the first task force meeting in May, Equiaga split the large group into two factions, to “wordsmith and craft” recommendations. One group is focus on safety aspects, and the other will focus on the well-being of students.
But Sandoval’s power is limited, as he leaves office before the next Legislature convenes. Ultimately, the next governor will have control over whether any proposed safety measures move forward to the Legislature.
The group is slated to meet through the end of calendar year, to continue to look at long-term solutions to school safety issues.