Are our students safe in Nevada schools?

Updated: Apr 13, 2018

Many parents find themselves attempting to reassure their children that school is a safe place to be, especially when a threatening event occurs — but is it? HOPE was pleased to attend a statewide law enforcement summit hosted by Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt and another safety presentation at FACES' Parent Engagement Forum.

The purpose of the summit was to examine Nevada’s laws, protocols, and security measures for ensuring school safety and how to respond to violent threats as they unfold. At the PEF presentation, Roy Anderson of the CCSD Police Department’s Office of Emergency Management and Joe Roberts of CCSD’s Department of Student Threat Evaluation and Crisis Response spoke about methods and techniques used by law enforcement and school administrators.

Based on lessons learned from the school shooting in Sparks, NV, as well as other national incidents, law enforcement agencies work in unison to reduce risk at our kids’ schools in new “Fusion Centers.” A fusion center is a group effort of two or more agencies that provide resources, expertise, and information to the center with the goal of maximizing their ability to detect, prevent, investigate, and respond to criminal and terrorist activity.

Interestingly, law enforcement also collaborates with the construction industry when building new schools. Now, schools feature safer designs with secured perimeters, emergency-button window blinds, cameras, radios, fire alarms with sensors instead of pulls, and more.

It’s important to note that best practices are constantly changing and plans are adjusted regularly with new information, and practices can vary from state to state. For example, Nevada’s protocol is to go after the assailant first, which is a different response than Florida used during the Parkland shooting on Feb. 14.

The FBI reminded participants that response time to an emergency is critical, however 43 percent of the time the incident has completed before any law enforcement arrives on scene. The "first responders" typically are school administration, teachers, staff, and parents. The official advice today is run, hide, fight — but not in any particular order — and only in an active-shooter situation. Never "play possum.”

In general, new measures within Clark County School District include:

  • An emergency crisis response plan in every school,

  • Cameras on all district school buses,

  • A two-way radio for every principal to communicate directly with CCSD PD and other agencies,

  • Implementation of the First Aid training program Stop The Bleed, an outreach program created by the American College of Surgeons and federal partners after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012 that teaches citizens to stop an emergency bleeding situation.

And across Nevada, safety protocols include:

  • Suspicious or inappropriate behavior must be reported, and with SafeVoice, a new anonymous reporting system used to report threats to the safety or well-being of students, it’s a lot easier, especially for Nevada's rural districts that don't have the same funding options as urban. SafeVoice can be accessed through the SafeVoice app (install on your phone by visiting safevoicenv.org), or by calling 833-216-SAFE. SafeVoice was established by the Nevada Department of Education under SB 212 in 2017 to protect student wellness, prevent violence, and save lives.

  • All Nevada schools have 10 emergency lockdown drills a year (per AB 127).

  • Schools with training protocols are an important resource to emergency response teams but some schools in more remote areas are hours away from authorities. Preparation and training is everything! Both Clark and Washoe County school districts have their own police force with more specific Active Assailant plans.

  • The general consensus from local law enforcement and district officials across Nevada is that rural and urban schools have their own unique challenges but realistically there aren't enough funds for specialized equipment or manpower for any districts.

As we move forward in safeguarding our students, there is still much to do: our mental health response is inconsistent and lacks manpower; our background check system causes delays and lacks proper identification measures; and we need a statewide data system that all law enforcement authorities can access 24/7.

Parents are eager for resources on how to maintain the safest environments in which our kids can focus on academic achievement. This Parent Notice Letter gives a brief overview of important information for families to know, as well as National Association of School Psychologist’s Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers.

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