Gov. Joe Lombardo asked Nevada lawmakers to set aside party differences and put school safety first Thursday as he testified on his Assembly Bill 330.
AB 330 revises current restorative disciplinary practices in the classroom.
Lombardo asked to speak on behalf of Nevada families and school staff members across the state who have experienced school violence in the past year as he introduced his bill, the “Safer and Supportive Schools Act.” The bill would give teachers greater control within their own classrooms to remove a student when they are experiencing behavior problems, require suspension or expulsion in a charter school to become consistent with disciplinary acts in public schools and “increase accountability” by the state and district superintendents, he said.
“AB330 focuses on serious reforms,” Lombardo said. “Every child should be given the ability to stay in school.”
Lombardo referred to 6,800 violent incidents in Clark County School District between Aug. 21, 2022, and Feb. 22, 2023. He added Las Vegas has 350 schools and 328 have reported at least one violent incident in the past year. He also cited a situation at Wooster High School in Reno on March 9 in which school police, Reno Police Department and Washoe County Sheriff’s deputies responded to multiple groups in a fight, resulting in two hospitalizations.
Lombardo announced in his State of the State address in January that he would be seeking to repeal sections of AB168’s public school restorative justice law passed by the Nevada Legislature in 2019, despite being “well-intended.”
But Thursday, AB330 received various reaction from educators and community members supporting or opposing its language, and legislators also questioned its framework or language.
Carson City School District Andrew Feuling testified Thursday and thanked Lombardo, his staff and others for developing the policy along with school district leadership. Feuling said as one of the state’s newer superintendents, he had spent last fall conducting listening sessions with his staff asking about their concerns and most frequently heard about safety as a priority.
“I have staff angry that they have to worry about safety in what should be the safest of environments (at school),” he said. “My administrators are angry because they don’t feel they have real options. They cannot continue to do more when they don’t have time resources or financial resources.”
Reno’s McQueen High School Principal Freeman Holbrook, who also is president of the Washoe School Principals Association, said the bill allows school staff members to make “decisions in real time,” focusing first on students’ behavior and social needs, then academics.
“These extreme situations are becoming more common because we are not interrupting the behavior cycle,” Holbrook said.
Assemblywoman and committee vice chair Angie Taylor, D-Sparks, asked Superintendent of Public Instruction Jhone Ebert, who had gone through the specifics of the bill, what existing state regulations allow concerning restorative justice. She then asked if it’s wise to rid the state of restorative justice if it hadn’t been introduced well in the first place.
“It does not remove the plan we have,” Ebert said. “As a department of education, we will still be supporting school districts, and work has been done and still needs to be completed.”
Assemblywoman Selena Torres, D-Las Vegas, also a teacher, said she was frustrated by the language concerning the removal of a student in disciplinary situations.
“This bill does nothing,” she said. “This says it’s really the principal’s call. I’m not comfortable with that. In 2021, I had a student who was violent and aggressive. They continued to be at the same school, and this bill removed my right to have a say in that. How would this impact teachers? … I would urge the bill sponsor to look at this language.”