The second meeting of the Nevada Legislature's Commission on School Safety and Juvenile
Violence (Assembly Bill 686, Chapter 607, Statutes of Nevada 1999) during the 1999-2000 interim
was held on Tuesday, November 9, 1999, commencing at 9:30 a.m. The meeting was held in
Conference Room B of Nevada's Division of Wildlife, 1100 Valley Road, Reno, Nevada.
Page 2 contains the "Meeting Notice and Agenda" for this meeting.
COMMISSION MEMBERS PRESENT IN RENO:
Senator Valerie Wiener, Chairman
Michael E. Johnson, Parent, Vice Chairman
Marcia Bandera, Superintendent, Elko County School District
Barbara Baxter, Teacher, Sparks High School
Tom Burns, Chief of Police, Henderson
Pamela Hawkins, Principal, Western High School
M. Kim Radich, Teacher, O'Callaghan Middle School
Annie Rees, Parent, Owner of Annie's Bail Bonds
Vince Swinney, Retired, Law Enforcement Representative
COMMISSION MEMBERS EXCUSED:
Assemblywoman Bonnie Parnell
Keith Savage, Principal, Yerington High School
LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL BUREAU STAFF PRESENT:
Juliann K. Jenson, Senior Research Analyst
R. Rene Yeckley, Senior Deputy Legislative Counsel
Linda Chandler Law, Senior Research Secretary
All place names mentioned in these minutes are in Nevada, unless otherwise noted.
Name of Organization: Commission on School Safety and Juvenile Violence
(Assembly Bill 686, Chapter 607, Statutes of Nevada 1999)
Date and Time of Meeting: Tuesday, November 9, 1999
Place of Meeting: Nevada Division of Wildlife
Conference Room B
1100 Valley Street
I. Opening Remarks by the Chairman and Introductions
Senator Valerie Wiener
*II. Approval of the Minutes of the October 7, 1999, Meeting
*III. Presentation and Training: The Development of a Statewide Emergency Response Plan to Incidents of School Violence
Cheri Lovre, Executive Director, Crisis Management Institute, Salem, Oregon
IV. Public Comment
V. Future Meetings and Directions to Staff
*Denotes items on which the committee may take action.
Note: We are pleased to make reasonable accommodations for members of the public who are disabled and wish to attend the
meeting. If special arrangements for the meeting are necessary, please notify the Research Division of the Legislative
Counsel Bureau, in writing, at the Legislative Building, 401 South Carson Street, Carson City, Nevada 89701-4747, or call
Linda Chandler Law, at (775) 684-6825, as soon as possible.
Notice of this meeting was posted in the following Carson City, Nevada, locations: Blasdel Building, 209 East Musser Street;
Capitol Press Corps, Basement, Capitol Building; City Hall, 201 North Carson Street; Legislative Building, 401 South Carson
Street; and Nevada State Library, 100 Stewart Street. Notice of this meeting was posted in the following Reno, Nevada, location:
Division of Wildlife, 1100 Valley Street. Notice of this meeting was faxed for posting to the following Las Vegas, Nevada,
locations: Grant Sawyer State Office Building, 555 East Washington Avenue; and Clark County Office, 500 South Grand Central
OPENING REMARKS BY THE CHAIRMAN AND INTRODUCTIONS
Senator Valerie Wiener called the meeting to order at 9:30 a.m., and she:
APPROVAL OF THE MINUTES OF THE OCTOBER 7, 1999, MEETING
MS. REES MOVED TO APPROVE THE MINUTES OF THE MEETING HELD ON OCTOBER 7, 1999, IN CARSON CITY, INCLUDING ANY CLERICAL CHANGES OR CORRECTIONS FOUND NECESSARY.
MS. BAXTER SECONDED THE MOTION, WHICH CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY (MS. BANDERA WAS NOT PRESENT FOR THIS VOTE).
PRESENTATION AND TRAINING:
THE DEVELOPMENT OF A STATEWIDE EMERGENCY RESPONSE PLAN TO INCIDENTS OF SCHOOL VIOLENCE
Chairman Wiener introduced Cheri Lovre, Executive Director, Crisis Management Institute (CMI), Salem, Oregon, together with her intern Judy Axleson, and noted that Ms. Lovre:
Ms. Lovre explained that establishing the superstructure for a crisis response or a violence prevention plan is a complex task; however, of all the states with which she has worked, Nevada is the first to begin this process by soliciting direction from someone experienced in constructing such programs. Most states simply want someone to come in and "train a team." In her view, it is imperative that the policy and infrastructure be in place prior to training staff.
Crisis prevention and response, planning and training, and a school's culture (whether students are willing to come forward with information that may avert violent incidents) are all part of a continuum. In her view, the first aspect of that continuum is the establishment of policy, to create a firm foundation upon which to construct a functional overall program.
Ms. Lovre asked members to provide their personal mission statements for the commission, for today's meeting and ultimately. Points raised by members during this discussion included the need for a plan that:
Ms. Lovre, in response to those points, noted that each suggestion will play an important part in establishing the foundation for the state plan, and there will be a need to:
She referred to three handouts that she would use during her discussions. See Exhibit A for copies of proprietary CMI documents titled "State-wide School Catastrophic Events Response Teams" (A1), "Flow of Training" (A2), and "Command Post Staff 'Positions'" (A3). During the meeting she also referenced information (see Exhibit B) from CMI manuals, titled "Crisis Resource Manual" (B1), "Catastrophic Events, Resource Manual" (B2), and "Catastrophic Events Resource Manual, SERT" (B3).
Describing the various alternative models of crisis response teams that may be helpful in understanding the commission's task in developing a statewide plan, and which are thoroughly discussed and defined in Exhibit A1, she explained that in the wake of the Thurston shooting:
Ms. Lovre also explained that when she received the call from Jim Millhouse, Assistant Superintendent, during the Columbine siege, he told her:
At that time, she began to understand the complexity and the depth of what needed to be conveyed to Mr. Millhouse in that 20-minute period. It was important that she not hang up the phone to call someone else to find out what to do. Had she hung up, she may never have gotten through again to provide help. She explained that in the Thurston experience she learned that:
With that as background, Ms. Lovre went on to say that what is most gratifying about working with this commission is that Nevada:
In addition, she noted that NAASP's PERT team has suggested that each state put its own team in place. Recently, California formed the first statewide emergency response team (SERT) to be trained. That state-level training opportunity resulted in some members of California's team:
In her view, Nevada should benefit from California's experience and put into place more than "just a team of trained people." This commission has the opportunity to take a more pragmatic/checklist approach in establishing a comprehensive structure and a program that, "when the rubber hits the road," will support the process and ensure that the methods and trained personnel are in place to respond quickly and effectively. To make that happen, the core team that is formed and trained will need:
Some national groups, among others, that become involved in these incidents include:
In the Thurston incident, having NOVA representatives available (many of whom had not met one another previously) allowed every family of a child who was injured or who died to have a victim's advocate to counsel them and work with a school liaison. That support started the day of the incident and is still going on. The NOVA organization also does community training nationwide. When a state governor or a district superintendent contacts NOVA about a major event, help is usually offered in the form of sending a number of advocates. That response, however, does not have the same focus as the policy-based program that will come from this commission's work, she said.
Ms. Lovre explained that when she arrived in Littleton, Colorado, and began talking to the administrators at Columbine, one statement that was repeated over and over was, "We knew it could happen in Denver, but we didn't think it would. Nobody thought it would happen in Littleton. And, if it ever was going to happen in Littleton, nobody thought it would be at Columbine." From that, it can be understood that it can and does happen "here."
When a team is formed from representatives of national organizations, law enforcement, the schools, and others who can respond quickly, there is a more sustained effort that allows for better assessment of:
Such an assessment takes time.
The violence prevention piece also needs to be in place and working. A state's catastrophic emergency response team (SCERT) itself can be a force in manifesting the violence prevention aspect because its members will:
Ms. Lovre noted that she would, therefore, first focus on forming SCERT or SERT teams, then move to violence prevention and more generic issues. She distributed the Exhibit A documents at this time.
She diagramed and discussed the basic plan a school or district must have in place to deal with a small crisis (one or two children are killed, perhaps in a car accident). She pointed out that when staff is pulled from one school to assist another, a gap is left at the first school and the remaining students do not have that resource person available for their needs. It is important, therefore, to leave schools potentially affected by the crisis (where friends or family of the victims may attend) intact and draw assistance from more distant areas. See Exhibit A1 for:
As part of her coverage of that material, Ms. Lovre explained that:
She described the wide-range of people, organizations, facilities, and details that are involved with high-profile crisis coverage and the need for administrators and school staff to continue to serve their students' on-going and routine needs, to maintain as much normalcy as possible. Those people should not be responsible for setting up and staffing the safe room, for example. The ideal is to return to homeostasis as soon as possible.
In terms of violence prevention, every time a student dies or some other crisis or tragedy happens, it generates a "teachable moment." Schools should be like a community where the population is told what is going on and where the students can take place in and be part of a forum that recognizes who they are. Providing that type of support during times of small crises often results in students, even those who have been marginalized, feeling more a part of that community.
Ms. Lovre read the suicide note Eric Harris wrote, as it was reported in an article by columnist Dan Savage. She said, the level of isolation expressed in that note was one of the most profound aspects of Littleton. In her view, if schools stressed the principle that everyone counts, and harassment will not be tolerated, a more accepting environment might develop for all students, not just those who are considered sports or social "royalty."
Ms. Lovre and the panelists engaged in a brief discussion of:
She also reviewed the detailed time line for and roles of "flight team" members who respond to such incidents, see Exhibit A1. The schedule for the first response day includes various notifications and:
The various flight teams include those at the building, districtwide, countywide (if different), county and agency collaborative, SERT, and PERT levels.
Although the principal remains in charge, the SERT and flight team members coordinate such things as:
Ms. Lovre said, in her view, the reason there has been no litigation filed against either Thurston High School or the Springfield School District (and this is the only school shooting incident that has not resulted in such litigation) is that each and every student (and his or her parent) received a personal telephone call from a teacher the day of the shooting explaining the status of the events of the day and what would occur the next day at school. That level of communication is not something that is normally attempted or attained during such times, but, by using teachers to contact students on their second-period rosters, it was relatively easy and very effective.
Everyone knows what happened at Columbine; however, most people do not realize that in the eight days that followed, an average of three evacuations occurred in some of the other 141 schools in the district because of bomb threats. No one felt safe in the schools. Therefore, there was an immediate need to meet with and support the other principals in the district who were exhausted. The members of the response teams took over that role. In addition, as reflected in the handouts, teachers are kept apprised of the situation.
Setting up unique structures for each event can be a huge undertaking, i.e., how to make budget decisions about services that are required, how to receive donations, how to answer all the letters that pour into the school, how to plan vigils and memorials, and so forth. From the beginning, the state coordinator provides support from a distance and stays on the phone with the site until the state field team is dispatched to the school.
She described her work as a liaison among all affected parties at Columbine and discussed the array of meetings and communications work that was necessary. She also noted that it is her preference to work with local media representatives, rather than the national media.
Discussion followed regarding the pros and cons of doing drills with students in anticipation of various types of threats. It was suggested that schools should work with local law enforcement and school police, perhaps during an in-service day, to become familiar with various scenarios. Such training should be separate from the evacuation and response drills that include students. It was noted that local authorities should have both detailed plans and videos of school facilities on hand in addition to sets of master keys so that they have effective and immediate accessibility.
After lunch, Ms. Lovre continued to discuss the:
It is mandatory that schools maintain a sense of community, and law enforcement plays an important and necessary role in ensuring school safety. Collaborative training is the key to making that mix work. The cultural changes in society are reflected in the culture of schools, and a community's cultural identity also affects students' perceptions of danger. Neighboring towns in Oregon, for instance, have very different views of themselves, i.e., Umatilla runs pollution drills, while Pendleton (less than 25 miles distant) has more of a cowboy/rodeo mind set. Such diversity is prevalent throughout the nation.
All children respond positively to adults who know their names. Students reap benefits from observing a police presence in the community that is not always linked to juvenile or law enforcement duties. The marginalization of students who are different should be avoided since pushing those children to the social fringe engenders a sense of failure in them.
Character development should be encouraged for every child, and parents should be paying attention to what their children are doing. Surveillance cameras and metal detectors may be a part of a prudent plan in some schools, but if character development programs and opportunities are not taken advantage of, then this battle will be lost, Ms. Lovre said. Explaining that comment, she said character development:
Senator Wiener noted that one area of personal responsibility that must be demonstrated more often and consistently is the need for adults to guard against children gaining access to weapons. In Jonesboro, Arkansas, following the school shootings there, a student wrote a report on the subject of securing weapons and was asked by a teacher to rewrite the assignment because, "We don't want to talk about this any more." That type of response, in her opinion:
It is important for those at the event site to speak with people who have been through similar situations. Follow up, in some instances, has been lacking, e.g., few people know that one of the mothers whose child died at Columbine walked into a pawn shop, bought a gun, and shot herself. Another child, a boy who survived a gunshot wound at Thurston, died in a hunting accident at the hand of his little brother. In anticipation of situations such as these, others who have been through the aftermath of school violence can assist in laying the groundwork for an appropriate follow-up structure.
Coming up with a prevention plan for school violence rarely takes into consideration the "student component." If you put a rule on a student, there is something about the culture of adolescence that often ensures the rule will not be followed; however, the more you can make the students a part of that prevention plan, the more successful it may be.
At a school in Ohio, the morning after the shooting at Columbine, an administrator went to his students and asked, "What should we (the administration) be doing to help you feel safer and to address this issue of safety?" The students, after a few days, came up with a plan that the school adopted. That plan, created by the student body through its student council, had as a primary aim the goal of breaking down the "high school royalty" illusion (the star football player should not be able to bend a rule to play in the game on Friday night when that rule is steadfast for other students). The plan also closed the school campus for the balance of the school year and instituted assigned seating in the cafeteria that integrated various types of students, e.g., one jock, popular kid, and so forth, who normally did not interact with one another, at each lunch table. At the end of the year, students requested the continuation of the closed campus and the use of seating assigned by the school council one week out of each month for the following school year. They understood the benefits and the differences the plan had made.
The size and structure of a school makes a difference in the school's culture, and:
Ms. Baxter agreed and noted that, in her view, closed campuses precipitate a more cohesive student body. An open campus encourages fragmenting by making it noncompulsory for students to fraternize with one another, thereby decreasing the feeling of community and unity on campus. Students from schools that required a closed campus and uniforms have remarked to her that such an environment:
Ms. Lovre noted that:
In conclusion, Ms. Lovre offered that:
To tie all this into the role of the SERT team and to revisit how that applies to the points raised by members at the outset of the meeting, Ms. Lovre explained that:
Ms. Lovre also noted that in the crisis management field, this question is asked often, "When you are standing in the river pulling out dead bodies, how long are you going to wait until you go upstream to find out who's throwing them in?" What puts these kids at risk in the first place?
Ms. Bandera said she appreciated that point being made. In her discussions with other administrators, concerns have been expressed about the need to identify kids who pose potential problems. When schools' populations are small enough to encourage personal contact, there is a chance to get to know each student, to recognize when a student may be "on the edge," "in trouble," or "feeling desperate." It is not prudent to label a specific child as a potential threat simply because he (or she) is part of a group, which is similar to one that may have included a student who became violent at another school site. Ms. Lovre said that concern about school violence and juvenile violence is widespread. Although such incidents are not new -- they have been occurring in intercity areas for many years -- their increased frequency in suburban and rural areas has intensified the focus on these issues. Recent changes have heightened awareness in communities, and people are becoming desperate to stem the tide. In a rush to do that, however, the societal and human aspect of that change should not be overlooked or discounted; otherwise, it is just another exercise.
Few schools do not exhibit some level of value bias; therefore, it is important to include various viewpoints and levels of expertise, not only for those who participate in the policy forum but also for those who will have hands-on involvement. Focusing on a single aspect or solution should be avoided in this process. It is beneficial to gain a broad understanding of how violence manifests itself in today's schools.
A discussion followed regarding the:
Ms. Lovre referred members to Exhibit B for comprehensive information on resources and operational planning.
Ms. Rees noted that sometimes the perpetrators' families are also victims of these incidents. They are severely impacted, and it is easy to leave them out of the response. Siblings and parents bear significant levels of guilt and blame, whether it is founded or not. Ms. Lovre affirmed that opinion, and explained that one of the purposes of addressing this issue is to be able to move toward understanding these incidents on a higher level. She briefly recapped the suggestions made and concerns expressed by the members at the outset of the meeting and during her presentation. She asked them to reflect on how, or if, their perspectives had changed based upon the information presented at this meeting.
Responding to Ms. Lovre:
Supplementing these comments, Ms. Lovre suggested that insurance carriers might also be approached for funding various aspects of the plan's implementation since potentially they stand to save large sums of money over time. In conclusion, Senator Wiener also emphasized the need to create a framework that would engender the development of sound and workable plans.
Ms. Lovre outlined the process of transitioning from this meeting through the development of the plan. She discussed four specific pieces that need to be put into place:
Following Ms. Lovre's discussion:
Judy Axleson, a kindergarten through 12th grade consultant and former teacher, commented that, in her view, the creation of a school environment that is supportive of children, that develops a more personal and caring relationship between staff and students, and that increases the feelings of safety and concern may increase student achievement over time. The big picture could be extrapolated into a program of "smallness." Being attentive to the small crises and concerns of children is important in changing school culture.
Ms. Lovre explained that the members of response teams would be different from county to county. Many of the members, perhaps half, should be teachers, but in any given place, some of the types of people who can fill roles at the more local level are more diverse. People who have expertise or a sense of how to keep the press contained, to meet the needs of kids, to support the school generally should be included. Creating a well-balanced team often takes time; however, many people select themselves to be involved based on a desire to serve their communities and share their skills. The janitor, for instance, should be included in the response in a considerate way -- not just sent to clean up the mess but with a concern about his intimate involvement with the children at the school. Maybe an outside company should be brought in for cleanup work.
Nevada and other states need to learn from the experiences and lessons of Columbine, Thurston, and elsewhere. A discussion followed about team interactions and duties and how the students' welfare plays into those responsibilities. Mr. Johnson said it will be important to establish and train teams from the local level. In that way, as those team members are trained and practice what they are trained to do, they can assist in forming upper level teams. Then, when the crisis occurs, no one sees the response as requiring a level of skill and effort with which they are unfamiliar. When the process is seen from that perspective, Ms. Lovre noted, the children are reassured by seeing adults come together to ensure that they will be safe at school, and that is a strong message.
Ms. Rees said that, although it will take significant effort and some period of time, it is important to change the attitudes of people in Nevada about how to raise the children in this state by setting an example, personally and governmentally. Character development should be the goal. Reassessing our intolerances and prejudices, in light of new knowledge, is a difficult thing for everyone. We cannot expect students to change their behavior unless they see adults being successful at doing the same thing. When adults argue over turf issues, they cannot expect children to act differently or to learn collaboration skills.
Ms. Axleson pointed out that it will be critical to get the commission's message out clearly. Let the vision for the plan be easily communicated and concise.
Senator Wiener said that since the commission has a limited period of time in which to develop its model plan, members should review the materials supplied by Ms. Lovre to familiarize themselves with the checklists, components, and guidelines that have been used successfully (see Exhibit C). She asked staff to work on a draft plan, which may be revised during the next meeting of the commission, so that it can be presented to the Governor in a timely manner.
In conclusion, Ms. Lovre asked to be kept apprised of the commission's progress.
No public testimony was offered.
FUTURE MEETINGS AND DIRECTIONS TO STAFF
There was no further discussion of this item.
Exhibit C is the "Attendance Record" for this meeting.
There being no further business to come before the commission, the meeting was adjourned at 4:40 p.m.
Linda Chandler Law
Senior Research Secretary
Juliann K. Jenson
Senior Research Analyst
Senator Valerie Wiener, Chair
Exhibit A, includes copies of proprietary documents titled "State-wide School Catastrophic Events Response Teams" (A1), "Flow of Training" (A2), and "Command Post Staff 'Positions'" (A3), presented by Cheri Lovre, M.S., Crisis Management Institute (CMI), Salem, Oregon.
Exhibit B includes manuals that Ms. Lovre developed for CMI, titled "Crisis Resource Manual" (B1), "Catastrophic Events, Resource Manual" (B2), and "Catastrophic Events Resource Manual, SERT" (B3).
Exhibit C is the "Attendance Record" for this meeting.
Copies of the materials distributed in the meeting are on file in the Research Library of the Legislative Counsel Bureau, Carson City, Nevada. You may contact the library at (775) 684-6827.