AG task force begins developing school safety programs | NevadaAppeal.com

AG task force begins developing school safety programs

A task force headed by the attorney general has begun steps in an effort to prevent the kind of violence that happened at Columbine and Virginia Tech from happening here.

It was the group’s first chance to review the report by the National Association of Attorneys General issued last month.

The “Teaching Tolerance Task Force” directed Michael Fitzgerald of the Department of Education to develop a survey for school officials spelling out where they currently are in school safety, what they need and related issues.

And he, Rod Smith of Smith/Peltier and Associates and Assemblywoman Bonnie Parnell, D-Carson City, were asked to begin looking at how school officials should do “threat assessments” when concerns are raised that a student might have the potential to become violent. The NAAG report says it is vital for schools and colleges to find ways of identifying those students before they act out.

As part of that process, they decided to ask Carson School Superintendent Mary Pierczynski to address what the capital district is doing.

Behavioral consultant Terri Peltier was asked to bring copies of a form she and others developed, which promises to get around one of the thornier issues raised in the report – the conflict between federal privacy laws and the need to share information about potentially problem students between mental health providers and schools.

But Stephanie Asteriadis of the Nevada Prevention Resource Council at the University of Nevada, Reno, said that form may not work with college students because they are 18 or older and many are over 21. She said unlike K-12 institutions, where students are under 18 and parents have the power to release data, the student would have to sign the release allowing transfer of the private information.

All present agreed that information is vital in identifying students with mental health issues before something bad occurs.

Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto said she will speak to the Board of Regents in October to lay out the issues and begin developing a solution.

The group’s next meeting will be Oct. 16.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.