School Safety commission told many violent incidents not reported
Many violent crimes in Nevada schools go unreported, the School Safety and Juvenile Violence Commission was told Thursday.
“Administrators are told not to make police reports,” said Clark County Schools police Sgt. Phil Gervasi, who is head of the Police Officers Association representing 120 Clark County school officers.
This was the first commission meeting since its formation by the Legislature.
Gervasi unreported incidents included the shooting of a student with a bow and arrow during an archery class. School police were never told. Another officer found out about a case of arson in which no report was made and the fire department never called when firefighters overheard students talking about it in the hall.
He said police found out about gunfire on a school bus after a bus driver came into the maintenance shop to get the bullet holes fixed.
In all these cases, he said, police reports were never filed.
Debbie Cahill of the Nevada State Teachers Association said before the commission, headed by Sen. Valerie Wiener, D-Las Vegas, can begin to make changes protecting students and teachers from school violence, it must have all incidents reported.
Cahill said, “Our members believe that those incidents are very much under-reported.”
She told the committee that teachers all across the state are concerned that violent incidents reported to school administrators never go beyond that point. She said it seems that principals don’t want their schools painted as violent and dangerous.
Wiener said the panel would take up all those issues before the next Legislature but that the first order of business is a January deadline to prepare a statewide school violence response plan. That plan then goes to local districts which must each develop a plan which meets the state plan’s requirements.
Wiener said committee members including former Washoe Sheriff Vince Swinney and former Henderson Police Chief Tommy Burns will figure strongly in that effort.
Swinney, who developed some of Nevada’s first plans for handling major disasters in the Reno area, said the key will not only be the plan but to set up scenarios that allow all agencies involved to practice and perfect it.
Wiener and Assemblywoman Bonnie Parnell, D-Carson City, are the only legislators on the panel. There are several representatives from law enforcement as well as teachers and two school administrators in the group as well.
Michael Fitzgerald of the state Department of Education said he appreciates the immediate need for strategies in case of a violent incident such as that at Columbine High in Littleton, Colo. where 15 people, including one teacher and the two students accused of the massacre, died.
“What can we do to change the lives of potentially violent students,” he said. “It’s not a school problem. It’s a societal problem.
“We need to restructure schools to be inviting, safe to be in and that’s the real long-range challenge.”
The committee will meet again Nov. 9 in Reno to consider what should be in the state plan. Wiener said a December meeting will be held in Las Vegas, to finalize the statewide plan.