LEGISLATIVE COMMISSION ON SCHOOL SAFETY AND JUVENILE VIOLENCE
(Assembly Bill 686, Chapter 607, Statutes of Nevada 1999)
April 13, 2000
COMMISSION MEMBERS PRESENT IN LAS VEGAS:
Senator Valerie Wiener, Chairwoman
Michael E. Johnson, Parent, Vice Chairman
Pamela Hawkins, Principal, Western High School
Annie Rees, Parent, Owner of Annie’s Bail Bonds
COMMISSION MEMBERS PRESENT IN CARSON CITY:
Assemblywoman Bonnie L. Parnell
Marcia R. Bandera, Superintendent, Elko County School District
Barbara Baxter, Teacher, Sparks High School
Vince Swinney, Representative of Law Enforcement
COMMISSION MEMBERS EXCUSED:
Tom Burns, Representative of Law Enforcement
M. Kim Radich, Teacher, O’Callaghan Middle School
Keith Savage, Principal, Yerington High School
LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL BUREAU STAFF PRESENT IN LAS VEGAS:
Juliann Jenson, Senior Research Analyst
R. Rene Yeckley Senior Deputy Legislative Counsel
Christine Kuhl, Senior Research Secretary
MEETING NOTICE AND AGENDA
Name of Organization:
Commission on School Safety and Juvenile Violence
(Assembly Bill 686, Chapter 607, Statutes of Nevada 1999)
Date and Time of Meeting:
Thursday, April 13, 2000
Place of Meeting:
Grant Sawyer State Office Building
555 East Washington Avenue
Las Vegas, Nevada
Some members of the Commission may be attending the meeting and other persons may observe the meeting and provide testimony, through a simultaneous video conference conducted at the following location:
401 South Carson Street
Carson City, Nevada
If you cannot attend the meeting, you can listen to it live over the Internet. The address for the legislative website is http://www.leg.state.nv.us. For audio broadcasts, click on the link “Listen to Meetings Live on the Internet.”
A G E N D A
Opening Remarks by the Chair and Introductions
Senator Valerie Wiener
Approval of the Minutes of the March 7, 2000, Meeting
Presentation and Discussion: Prevention and Intervention Efforts to Reduce the Incidence of School and Juvenile Violence
A. Ralph Cadwallader, Nevada Association of School Administrators
B. Debbie Cahill, Nevada State Education Association
C. Phil Gervasi, President, Police Officers’ Association, Clark County School District
D. Stan Olsen, Nevada Sheriff’s and Chief’s Association
E. Student Representatives, Greater Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Las Vegas Youth
F. D.J. Stutz, Nevada Parent-Teacher Association
G. Ruth Urban, Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce
H. Garth Winkler, United Way of Southern Nevada
Discussion and Overview of Work Session Process and Procedure
A. Senator Valerie Wiener
B. Juliann Jenson, Senior Research Analyst, Research Division, Legislative Counsel Bureau
Discussion of Future Meeting Dates and Topics
*Denotes items on which the commission may take action.
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 Christine Kuhl 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 faxed for posting to the following Las Vegas, Nevada, locations: Clark County Office, 500 South Grand Central Parkway; and Grant Sawyer State Office Building, 555 East Washington Avenue.
OPENING REMARKS BY THE CHAIR AND INTRODUCTIONS
Senator Valerie Wiener called the meeting to order at 9:30 a.m. Roll was called and a quorum was present.
The Chairwoman explained that the Commission is required to provide a statewide plan of emergency response to incidents of school violence, in the form of a Bill Draft Request (BDR), to the 2001 Legislature. In addition, the Commission may submit additional BDRs addressing intervention and prevention programs to reduce juvenile and school violence. The focus of this meeting is to gather information to be used when developing these recommendations.
Senator Wiener noted changes to the order in which the speakers listed on the Commission’s agenda would testify. These modifications are reflected in the following section.
APPROVAL OF THE MINUTES OF THE MARCH 7, 2000, MEETING
MR. JOHNSON MOVED FOR APPROVAL OF THE MINUTES OF THE COMMISSION’S MEETING HELD ON MARCH 7, 2000, IN PAHRUMP, NEVADA. THE MOTION WAS SECONDED BY MS. REES AND PASSED UNANIMOUSLY.
PRESENTATION AND DISCUSSION: PREVENTION AND INTERVENTION EFFORTS TO REDUCE THE INCIDENCE OF SCHOOL
AND JUVENILE VIOLENCE
Ralph Cadwallader, Executive Director, Nevada Association of School Administrators (NASA), provided the Commission members with a document, titled Comments to the Legislative Commission on School Safety and Juvenile Violence (Exhibit A). Mr. Cadwallader explained that he would be addressing matters dealing with prevention and intervention efforts to reduce the incidence of school and juvenile violence
Mr. Cadwallader expressed concern that less time and thought is being given to school violence prevention and intervention efforts in Nevada because the attention of educators is being focused on new State academic standards and proficiency testing. He noted that Vince Ferrandino, Executive Director of the National Association of Elementary School Principals, recently stated, “Because of the national emphasis on assessment and teaching to the test, we are losing many components of education. The increase in school violence is, in a small way, related to this loss.” Consequently, while teachers exert more time and energy in their classrooms on academic standards, less time is spent dealing with the student.
Continuing, Mr. Cadwallader stated that while community agencies are well trained for emergencies, educators typically are not. Therefore, the structure of any intervention or prevention plan must include comprehensive training of all school employees. He urged the Commission to include a mandated training component in its recommendations to the 2001 Legislature.
Next, Mr. Cadwallader provided the Commission with three possible recommendations for presentation to the Legislature. They are as follows:
1. Establish a comprehensive training program that includes all employees on school sites and mandates rehearsals similar to the current practice of fire drills. Such training must include periodic review requirements.
2. Establish State and/or regional emergency response teams of trained individuals to serve as support to schools or school districts in the event that a catastrophic situation occurs.
3. Provide supplemental funding to local and State education agencies to accomplish recommendations 1 and 2.
Commenting further, he explained a program that is being developed by the NASA, in collaboration with the State Secondary Principals Association and Nevada’s Department of Education. The program, called the “Principals’ Emergency Response Team,” would utilize the services of a nationally respected emergency response trainer to educate school administrators on how to deal with an event of school violence. Ideally, three days of training will be provided. Once in place, this team would be available to assist any school should a situation occur. Currently, funding has been provided by Nevada’s Department of Education. The NASA is seeking additional revenue sources.
Referring to the upcoming student speakers, Mr. Cadwallader urged the Commission members to listen carefully to their comments and to “not underestimate the wisdom of our youth.”
In conclusion, Mr. Cadwallader urged the Commission members to remember that just because an emergency response plan has been compiled does not mean that its implementation will occur. He noted that in order for implementation to occur, there must be continuous interagency and intergroup collaboration, quality training and rehearsing, and sufficient resources.
Senator Wiener noted that funding for the “Principals’ Emergency Response Team” program might be available from Nevada’s Department of Motor Vehicles and Public Safety (DMV&PS).
Responding to a question posed by Ms. Rees, Mr. Cadwallader explained that staff training for the “Principals’ Emergency Response Team” program costs $2,500 per day.
Debbie Cahill, Nevada State Education Association (NSEA), provided the Commission members with a document titled Testimony to the Commission on School Safety and Juvenile Violence (Exhibit B).
Ms. Cahill informed the Commission that, according to a report titled School House Hype: Two Years Later, from the Justice Policy Institute/Children’s Law Center, there was a 40 percent decline in school associated violent deaths between school years 1997-1998 and 1998-1999, but at the same time the number of Americans who were fearful of their schools rose nearly 50 percent. The report documents that fights and gun possession in schools are down, the total number of school crimes has declined 29 percent, and there is an overall decline in juvenile crime.
According to Ms. Cahill, this “good news” should help steer policy decisions away from a total focus on an event that has a 1 in 2 million chance of happening (i.e., a major school shooting resulting in the death of a child). Instead, policy should focus on ensuring that students have every opportunity to reach their full potential and find academic success. Consequently, the NSEA supports concentrating in the following four areas:
1. Enhancing student learning;
2. Providing quality teaching;
3. Promoting parental involvement; and
4. Increasing student accountability.
With regard to enhancing student learning, reducing overcrowded classes is the main priority of the NSEA, explained Ms. Cahill. However, despite efforts to reduce student/teacher ratios at the primary grades, Nevada is fifth in the nation in overall class size.
Further, students must have access to counseling and nursing personnel. Ms. Cahill explained that according to the National Institute of Mental Health, 1 in 10 children and adolescents suffer from a mental illness serious enough to cause impairment. Suicide among young adolescents aged 15 to 24 is the third most common cause of death. According to the Surgeon General’s report on mental health, 13 percent of children and adolescents between the ages of 9 and 17 suffer from anxiety disorders, 6.2 percent are afflicted with mood disorders, and 2 percent experience problems from substance abuse.
Continuing, she remarked that The National Technical Assistance Center for Children’s Mental Health at Georgetown University contends that the emergence of “system building” at the state level is the most effective way of dealing with children’s mental illnesses. System building, according to Joan Dodge of the Center, means bringing together the resources of the criminal justice, educational, and medical systems to create comprehensive programs targeted specifically at the young. Ms. Cahill explained that NSEA would like to promote parental involvement in all aspects of a student’s education, but realizes that it must be a community effort. Therefore, through the schools and other community resources, the following three programs must be provided:
1. Parent-teacher partnerships to improve literacy, train parents to encourage reading at home, and provide assistance to parents with limited English skills so that parents may be active partners in their children’s education;
2. Workshops and other opportunities for parents to learn how to best help their children succeed in school; and
3. Partnerships with parents to promote the value of education at home and foster good learning skills in their children.
In conclusion, Ms. Cahill discussed Assembly Bill 521 (Chapter 591, Statutes of Nevada 1999) and explained that she has visited schools that have received money, as allocated by the bill, to implement alternative learning opportunities for students who have been removed from the traditional classroom. In many cases, noted Ms. Cahill, students who have been placed in an alternative setting are “turned around” and returned to the traditional classroom successfully. Unfortunately, there is not an alternative placement facility available for every student in every school.
Responding to a question asked by Senator Wiener, Ms. Cahill explained that the funds provided in A.B. 521 are to be used to develop eight alternative pilot schools. The funds will be spent by the end of the 2000-2001 school year. Further, she indicated that although there is a perception that there is a crisis with regard to school safety, the more the community sees the school as “their place” the sense of anxiety will be reduced and community members will be more likely to become involved in school activities.
According to Ms. Baxter, many teachers are unaware of the guidelines as set forth in A.B. 521 and these guidelines are not being followed in many schools. Consequently, students who should be removed from the classroom are not.
In response, Ms. Cahill explained that mixed results of the legislation have been reported and perhaps implementing a training component is necessary. She further noted that when there is no alternative setting in which to place a student, he is often returned to the traditional classroom.
Tiffany Clark, Brenna Maizel, Allison Kuberski, John Ingebretsen, and Amanda Gough
Student representatives from the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Las Vegas Youth Program, approached the Commission and provided suggestions regarding intervention and prevention programs. Their testimonies follow.
Tiffany Clark, a student at Centennial High School, provided testimony in favor of establishing a statewide mandate for implementation of school uniforms in grades Kindergarten through 12. Ms. Clark asserted that a safe and disciplined learning environment is the first requirement of a good school. In response to increasing incidents of violence in schools, many parents, school officials, and teachers have come to see school uniforms as one positive and creative way to reduce discipline problems and increase safety. Ms. Clark explained that the potential benefits of mandating the use of school uniforms include:
· Decreasing violence and theft, even life-threatening situations among students, which may arise over designer clothing and expensive athletic shoes;
· Helping students and parents to resist peer pressure;
· Improving concentration on schoolwork;
· Instilling students with discipline;
· Preventing gang members from wearing gang colors and insignia; and
· Recognizing school intruders.
Ms. Clark explained that the decision to implement a school uniform policy should be made by the state, local school districts, and individual schools. Further, parental involvement is essential. She identified guidelines to follow when making the decision to initiate a school uniform policy. They are:
· Assist families that need financial aid;
· Determine if an “opt-out” position will be offered if a mandatory school uniform policy is implemented;
· Determine if the policy is to be voluntary or mandatory;
· Do not require students to wear a message;
· Encourage parental involvement;
· Protect students’ religious expressions;
· Protect students’ rights of individual expression; and
· Treat school uniforms as part of an overall safety program.
Commenting further, Ms. Clark noted examples of results achieved following implementation of school uniform policies. She reported that:
· In 1995, in Seattle, Washington, a school uniform policy was implemented for approximately 900 middle school students. An area principal made the following statement regarding the policy, “This year the demeanor in the school has improved 98 percent. Truancy and tardies are down and we have not had one reported incident of theft. Only five students have elected to attend another public school.”
· Principals in Richmond, Virginia, have attributed school uniforms to a noted improvement in behavior, increase in attendance rates, and higher student achievement among elementary school students in 1994.
· In Memphis, Tennessee, a school uniform policy was adopted for approximately 530 elementary school students in 1993. A Memphis guidance counselor noted, “The tone throughout the school is different. There is not the competitiveness, especially in grades 4 through 6, about who is wearing what. Ninety percent of the students have elected to wear uniforms on school uniform days, Monday through Thursday. Friday is casual day during which none of the students wear uniforms.”
· In 1989, a school uniform policy was implemented in Baltimore, Maryland for approximately 950 elementary and middle school students. Ms. Clark reported that, according to a Baltimore assistant principal, school uniform policy has “enhanced the tone of our climate of our building. It brings about a sense of seriousness about work. All the students have elected to participate in the uniform program.”
· In Norfolk, Virginia, in 1995, a uniform policy was implemented for approximately 970 middle school students. In Norfolk, noted behavioral improvements include a 38 percent decrease in fighting, a 47 percent decrease in leaving class without permission, and a 68 percent decrease in throwing objects in class.
· A principal in Phoenix, Arizona, speaking about the 1995 implementation of a school uniform policy for approximately 1,175 middle school students, stated that “the main results are an overall improvement in the school climate and the greater focus on positive behavior. A big portion of this is from uniforms.”
· In elementary and middle schools in Long Beach, California, less than 1 percent of the students elected to “opt‑out” of the policy. The following statistics for the year 1994 were reported:
Ø 18 percent decrease in vandalism;
Ø 34 percent decrease in assault and battery;
Ø 36 percent decrease in overall school crime;
Ø 50 percent decrease in weapon offenses;
Ø 51 percent decrease in fights; and
Ø 74 percent decrease in sex offenses.
Concluding her presentation, Ms. Clark opined that Nevada’s schools are no different than those in other states and, consequently, would benefit from the implementation of a school uniform policy. She requested the Commission to take action regarding a statewide mandate for implementation of a school uniform policy in grades Kindergarten through 12.
Responding to questions posed by Senator Wiener, Ms. Clark explained that the “opt-out” choice was given to students who reside in areas where uniform implementation is the decision of an individual school, therefore allowing the student a choice to attend another area school that has not adopted a school uniform policy. Further clarifying her testimony, Ms. Clark explained that her request is for a school uniform policy, not a school dress code.
Ms. Hawkins noted that the statistics provided by Ms. Clark are from elementary and middle schools and questioned if she researched statistics for high schools. In response, Ms. Clark explained that high schools have only recently begun to adopt school uniform policies and statistics are therefore unavailable. In response to Ms. Hawkins’ second question, Ms. Clark explained that the consequence for not wearing a school uniform once policy is in place is removal from school.
Commenting further, Ms. Clark responded to Mr. Johnson, who questioned why she proposed a student uniform policy rather than a dress code. She opined that students bend the rules and maintain their individual style of dress. A school uniform policy will break down a student’s identification with a specific group, for example a cowboy or a gothic, and provide an environment of unity. Uniforms will be specific for each school and will utilize school colors.
Ms. Baxter commended Ms. Clark for recognizing the problems associated with a school dress code and for providing a presentation advocating school uniforms.
Additionally, Ms. Rees thanked Ms. Clark for providing insight, from a student’s perspective, regarding school uniform policy and noted that it seems parents are more hesitant than students to implement such policy.
Brenna Maizel, a student at Green Valley High School, addressed the issue of school bullying. She asserted that instilling a philosophy, at an early age, regarding respect for campus rules and regulations, would benefit student behavior later in life. Ms. Maizel asserted that identifying and stopping potential problems immediately, by placing additional advisors on school campuses and playgrounds, is a possible solution to the school-bullying problem.
Responding to a question from Senator Wiener, Ms. Maizel clarified the term “advisors” by explaining that her recommendation for the use of “advisors” is the adoption of a volunteer program, which would provide additional help during recess and lunch. The volunteers would intervene when a problem arises and put a stop to small incidents before they are able to escalate into a larger incident. The rationale is that if students are likely to get caught and receive punishment for small incidents, larger incidents will be less likely to occur. This will have a “chain reaction” in the future, and student behavior and respect for the school environment will improve. Further, the likelihood of acts of school violence will decrease.
Senator Wiener noted that many schools have peer mediation, anger management, and conflict resolution programs in place.
Allison Kuberski, a student at Las Vegas High School, spoke regarding peer mediation. She drew an example from the high school she attends and explained that the peer mediation program consists of a few students who are available to fellow students, especially to those returning to school following suspension resulting from fighting on campus. She explained that peer mediation is important because students often do not feel comfortable speaking about problems with adults. Further, peers are better able to relate to problems experienced by their classmates. Additionally, high school counselors are primarily conducting administrative activities (i.e. scheduling classes and counting credits) and do not serve the students in a traditional counseling situation. Ms. Kuberski advocated the implementation of a “high school hotline” to provide an opportunity for students to have someone to talk to when they have a problem or are just “bored.” For a “bored” student, the hotline would provide an alternative to committing deviant acts. Further, parental involvement in the counseling process should also be implemented.
Responding to a question asked by Senator Wiener, Ms. Kuberski explained that, at her school, the peer mediators are not necessarily just the “good students.” They include all types of students who want to help others.
Senator Wiener pointed out that a peer is not merely someone who is the same age as you, but is someone with whom you can identify. She questioned Ms. Kuberski regarding how the peer mediation program can recruit students who would not normally get involved in school activities. Ms. Kuberski responded that participating students recruiting fellow students would be the most effective method because the impact of a peer advocating a program versus a teacher or a flyer providing the information has a stronger impact.
John Ingebretsen, a student at both Area Technical Trade Center and Silverado High School, advocated the implementation of a high school zero-tolerance program that would utilize a point system, similar to the point system used by the DMV&PS for driving infractions. Mr. Ingebretsen explained that he has witnessed the exemption of some students from the traditional zero‑tolerance policy. A point system would establish clear guidelines for administrators to follow with regard to conduct infractions. Each violation would have a standard point value attached and there would be no exceptions. Once a student has reached the maximum allotted points, he will be removed from the traditional school setting and placed in an opportunity school environment, just as a driver’s license is revoked upon receipt of excess points.
Mr. Johnson asked Mr. Ingebretsen if he is concerned that the same phenomenon would occur as with zero-tolerance, where there are exceptions to the rule. Mr. Ingebretsen expressed hope that school administrators would follow the guidelines set forth in the policy.
Ms. Maizel, noted that the program seems similar to one implemented at Green Valley High School. The rule regards an absence policy. Once a student has received ten absences from a class, he is not eligible to receive credit for the class. Periodic notices regarding accumulated absences are sent to the student in order to keep him informed of his status. Ms. Maizel suggested implementation of a similar notification process for the point system.
Ms. Bandera noted that the Commission would benefit from a zero-tolerance discussion at its final meeting and work session. She further explained that a zero-tolerance policy was more easily enforced prior to the passage of A.B. 521, as discussed earlier by Ms. Cahill.
Ms. Rees pointed out that the DMV&PS provides drivers the opportunity for points to be removed from a driving record by attending a “driver’s school.” She questioned if such a program would be established for the point system by offering, for example, anger management courses. Mr. Ingebretsen acknowledged that such and opportunity is a good idea.
Ms. Baxter noted that it is necessary to obtain funding to staff such a program.
Nicole Eddins, a student at Southern Nevada Vo-Tech High School, spoke regarding motivating students to succeed and stay out of trouble. She suggested that an antiviolence school assembly, run by students, utilizing motivational speakers, police officers, and entertainment, is one way to achieve this goal.
Ms. Baxter questioned if Vo-Tech High School experiences fewer problems because there is a common interest (technical training) among the students. Ms. Eddins explained that the school is just like any other high school and does have discipline problems.
Amanda Gough, a student at Centennial High School, advocated the importance of after‑school programs. She explained that there is not much variety in the programs currently offered and testified that new programs and ideas must be developed. She opined that many juvenile offenses are a result of boredom. After-school programs would fill this void and provide youth with a sense of belonging to a group. She further advocated implementing a requirement for habitual juvenile offenders to join a club or activity.
Senator Wiener explained that juvenile judges in Nevada do have the option to choose an alternative sentencing program in the areas of recreation or the arts for juvenile offenders.
Discussion ensued regarding the availability of high school counselors to provide actual counseling to students. Ms. Baxter suggested that the Commission address the issue of school counselors at the high school level because they are utilized primarily for administrative duties, not actual “counseling.” Mr. Swinney supported the idea.
Ms. Baxter noted that Sparks High School has a mentoring program in place called “natural helpers.” She explained that each year, students nominate faculty members with whom they feel comfortable. These faculty members attend a summer training program and take on the role of a counselor. She explained that the program has been successful.
Garth Winckler, representing the United Way of Southern Nevada, explained that the United Way provides funding to more that 140 human service programs operated by approximately 60 agencies. About one-third of these agencies serve youth.
Mr. Winckler asserted that youth violence is a symptom on an unhealthy community and not an individual problem of the family, law enforcement, or school. The problem belongs to the entire community. He further noted that youth are often safer in schools than in the community and reported that 50 to 90 percent of youth will annually witness an act of violence in their community.
Continuing, Mr. Winckler listed some of the factors that may lead to youth violence. They are as follows:
· Economic and spiritual poverty;
· Lack of parental involvement,
· Mental problems;
· Peer pressure; and
· Personal problems.
Remarking further, Mr. Winckler stated that public policy is uncoordinated with the community. He cited an example in a program called the “Cities and Schools Program.” He explained that the program is designed to deal with violence and gang issues and was well supported by the community. The Clark County School District chose not to implement the program, which could have been a well orchestrated, community involved, youth violence prevention program. He noted, however, that collaborative actions have recently begun between service agencies.
Mr. Winckler supported the asset-building approach to youth violence prevention. However, he noted that communication between service groups must be established. He further noted that due to the 24-hour nature of Las Vegas and the mobility of its residents, a sense of community is lacking. The rapid growth that Las Vegas is experiencing has created a great cultural diversity and youth violence prevention and intervention programs must be culturally sensitive. He explained that southern Nevada offers many quality youth programs but they need additional funding in order to meet the demands of the growing community.
Continuing his presentation, Mr. Winckler provided suggestions for improvements to the asset-based community programs system. They include early childhood intervention, implementation of community and neighborhood based services, and interagency sharing of information.
Mr. Winckler next referred to the Search Institute, located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which utilizes the asset-building approach. The Institution has developed “40 developmental assets for kids.” He noted that only 6 percent of the children contained in the upper quartile of these assets committed acts of violence in a yearly period. This is in contrast to over 60 percent of the children contained in the bottom portion of the quartile having committed acts of violence in a yearly period. It is clear that students with more assets in their lives are less likely to become pregnant as teenagers, drop out of school, and get involved in alcohol and drug use. A collaborative effort between the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and other area agencies is attempting to bring the Search Institute model to southern Nevada. The Clark County School District has granted permission to conduct surveys of students regarding available assets.
Continuing with his presentation, Mr. Winckler noted that codes of conduct must be established, not only in the schools but across the community as well. He also asserted that social competencies can be taught and learned and must be built into the school curriculum. Areas to address for social competency training are:
· Acceptance of cultural differences;
· Anger control and stress management;
· Empathy for others;
· Listening skills;
· Making accurate assessments of others;
· Peer mediation;
· Put a caring adult in the life of a child through mentoring programs;
· Recognizing one’s own emotions and the emotions of others;
· Social-problems skills; and
· Understanding consequences of personal behaviors in terms of both rewards and punishments.
Regarding the importance of asset-building programs, Mr. Winckler relayed information regarding General Colin Powell’s program, “America’s Promise,” which lists five broad resources to which every child should have access. They include:
1. Caring adult in the child’s life;
2. Healthy start;
3. Opportunity to give back to the community;
4. Safe places; and
5. Skills learned through education.
In conclusion, Mr. Winckler asserted that the asset-building program requires one important societal change. This is a change in attitude throughout the community regarding acceptable behavior. It starts with the individual and will have a “trickle down” effect.
Responding to Ms. Hawkins, Mr. Winckler explained that the age group targeted for mentoring program is grades 3 through 5. Mentoring at the high school level is provided through organizations such as scouting and Big Brothers/Big Sisters.
Phil Gervasi, President, Police Officers’ Association, Clark County School District provided the Commission members with a document titled Police Officers’ Association of the Clark County School District (Exhibit C).
Beginning his presentation, Mr. Gervasi explained that the Police Officers’ Association of the Clark County School District recognizes that certain changes have to be put in place in order to develop programs that work and will provide a safe learning environment for students and staff. He asserted that this would only be achieved if there were a collaborative effort between administrators, law enforcement, students, support staff, and teachers.
Mr. Gervasi noted that currently there is not a combined effort in place between law enforcement and school faculty for preventing and responding to school violence. He explained that without teamwork, the two groups are “pulling in different directions and the students suffer the consequences.”
Continuing, Mr. Gervasi noted that because faculty has the most direct contact with students, and therefore insight into the potential problems as well as realistic solutions applicable to the individual school, they must establish the first line of school safety. He advocated that law enforcement should not only focus on addressing negative behavior, but should also find ways to encourage positive behavior. He explained that this could be accomplished by providing law‑related counseling and education to faculty on a combined training day. Law-related education should be a required training program that includes legal considerations regarding liability, remarked Mr. Gervasi. Law-related training should address the following areas:
· Anti-bullying programs;
· Communication and consistent enforcement of school rules;
· Compliance with all current applicable federal, state, county, and local statutes addressing safety and harassment issues;
· Conflict resolution programs;
· Encouragement and recognition of positive student behavior;
· Establishment of a cooperative relationship with school-area businesses and residents for reporting of criminal activity and unusual incidents;
· Implementation of measures to reduce student isolation;
· Liability of schools for violation of students’ rights;
· Mandatory reporting requirements;
· Negligent responses to threats and acts of violence; and
· Staff training to recognize student warning signs.
Commenting further, Mr. Gervasi stressed the importance of student involvement in reducing school violence. He made the following suggestions regarding methods students can implement to achieve this goal:
· Establish a contact person to whom to report information and concerns about known or potential violence or harassment;
· Participate in ongoing activities which promote school safety;
· Report suspicious behavior and threats of violence and suicide to appropriate school officials;
· Understand and follow school violence prevention policies;
· Utilize techniques to avoid and cope with negative peer pressure; and
· Work with teachers and administrators to create a safe way to report threats.
In conclusion, Mr. Gervasi reiterated that addressing the issue of school violence requires a collaborative effort between administrators, teachers, support staff, law enforcement, and students.
Stan Olsen, representing the Nevada Sheriff’s and Chief’s Association, as well as the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, addressed the issues of juvenile crime and intervention programs. He reiterated the comments made by previous speakers that early intervention is essential for violence prevention.
Continuing, Mr. Olsen noted that Las Vegas does not have programs for parents of children who are beginning to demonstrate warning signs of violence. Further, Las Vegas does not offer a safe haven for runaways.
Regarding juvenile crimes, Mr. Olsen informed the Commission that there are problems dealing with the reporting of crimes in the Clark County School District because there is not a district-wide reporting policy in place. Rather, individual schools make policy. He asserted that this must stop and advocated mandating the reporting of felony activities occurring on school campuses to the appropriate police department.
Mr. Olsen further opined that a policy providing swift and consistent punishment for juvenile crimes must be enacted in order to successfully address the problem.
In conclusion, Mr. Olsen asserted that it is wrong to suspend or otherwise reprimand a student who steps in to defend a fellow classmate who is the victim of bullying. He stated that this teaches students to turn their heads the other way and ignore problems. Ms. Hawkins noted that it would be extremely difficult to determine if a student was in fact protecting another student or was actually involved in a fight. Ms. Rees agreed with Mr. Olsen that reprimanding a student in this situation teaches the wrong message. Senator Wiener noted that teaching accountability on all levels is essential, but there is a fine line between condoning the action of providing protection and encouraging vigilante actions. She opined that steps must be made to ensure that students understand they must not take the law into their own hands.
Ms. Rees noted that mandating the reporting of criminal activity committed on school campuses would alleviate the pressure placed on administrators who are often asked to make exceptions to the rules for certain students.
Responding to a question asked by Senator Wiener, Mr. Olsen stated that all felony crimes should be reported, not just those considered to be most severe.
Ms. Bandera and Ms. Baxter both spoke in support of the benefits of coordinating efforts between the school and the local police department.
D.J. Stutz, Second Vice-President, Nevada Parent Teacher Association (PTA), provided the Commission members with a document titled Comments to Legislative Commission on School Safety and Juvenile Violence (Exhibit D). She explained that the Nevada PTA represents approximately 30,000 members statewide.
She began her presentation by commending the Commission members on their work to ensure that all children have a safe school environment. Both the National and Nevada PTA support legislation that provides adequate funding for after-school programs, the “Safe and Drug-Free School Program,” and school modernization to make schools safer and better environments for learning. She noted that the main concerns of parents with regard to a school emergency response plan include the safety of the students, clear evacuation procedures, communication, and methods of parental notification. A good program should address all of these issues through prevention, preparation, and education.
Continuing, Ms. Stutz explained the eight issues to be addressed with regard to implementation of a school violence prevention and safety program. The areas are:
1. Abuse prevention: Treatment programs which address child abuse and neglect. These programs should involve community awareness, early detection, and treatment for both the aggressor and victim.
2. Cults and gangs: Implementation of prevention and education strategies for parents, students, and teachers addressing the problems of cult and gang activity.
3. Effective schools: Programs that assist schools in meeting the needs of students by providing comprehensive counseling, drop-out prevention strategies, professional development opportunities on problems associated with and prevention of youth suicide and at-risk students, curriculum that addresses nonviolent conflict resolution, and safe and drug-free school programs to enhance education and prevention activities.
4. Family and parental involvement: Provide and support activities and legislation that enable families and parents to provide community, home, and school environments that are nurturing and safe and meet the mental, physical, social, and spiritual needs of children.
5. Firearms: Educate communities, parents, and students regarding the harm of handgun violence and how to take preventative measures when guns are present.
6. Media and television violence: Support awareness programs that educate parents on the issues of media and television violence.
7. Tolerance of diversity: Children and educators must be free from discrimination and harassment. Encourage schools to develop and enforce anti-discrimination and harassment policies and support programs that promote an understanding and appreciation for individual differences. Programs should also include coping tactics for those who feel excluded from the school society or the target of such discrimination.
8. Violence prevention: Incorporation of age-appropriate violence prevention studies into Kindergarten through 12 curriculum and adoption of policies and guidelines to protect students and the school community.
In conclusion, Ms. Stutz explained that school communities which have violence prevention plans and crisis management teams in place are more prepared to identify and avert potential problems and to know how to respond to a crisis situation. The most effective violence prevention and response plans are developed in cooperation with the community members, health officials, parents, school, and students. These plans include descriptions of early warning signs, emergency response plans, intervention strategies, post-crisis procedures, and school safety policies.
Ruth Urban, Chair, Leadership Las Vegas Youth Program, Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce Foundation, provided the Commission members with two packets of information (Exhibit E). Please refer to the “List of Exhibits” for details.
Ms. Urban commended the comments made earlier by the student representatives from the Leadership Las Vegas Youth Program. She informed the Commission that the Chamber believes in youth because they are the future of the success of the Las Vegas community and a healthy economy.
She explained the involvement of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce in youth programs. Ms. Urban stated that the staff members of the Chamber are involved in many youth‑related programs including the advisory board for the “Drop-out Prevention Program” at Clark High School, Clark County School District and youth mentoring programs. The Chamber also provides office space for the “Community Partnership Program” and the “School-to-Careers Program.” The Chamber of Commerce houses the “PAYBAC Program,” which pairs volunteers with middle school students to encourage youth to stay in school. Further, many local businesses participate in job shadowing programs and the Chamber encourages business to support such programs. The “Smart Grad Program” is a partnership with the Clark County School District, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Public Education Foundation, and provides youths with on-the-job training experiences. The students are paired with professionals and the skills they learned are evaluated. The “Smart Card Program” is a partnership with local businesses (many of which are Chamber members) that have agreed to provide discounts to students presenting the card. In order to obtain and maintain use of a card, a student must maintain a 3.0 grade point average.
On April 25, 2000, The Chamber of Commerce Community Council is holding a mixer to introduce businesses to the “Focus School Project.” The project intends to match area businesses with at-risk schools for “school adoption.” Ms. Urban explained that one aspect of the program allows for juvenile offenders to complete community service requirements with these businesses while learning job skills. Senator Wiener noted that the program is called “Restitution Earned, Accountability Learned” and as many as 1,500 first‑time, nonviolent, youth offenders will be eligible to participate.
Turning to the Leadership Las Vegas Youth Program, Ms. Urban explained that the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce sponsors the program, which involves 44 high school juniors each year. The students participate in a five-month long intensive program that makes a change in their lives. Further, the Foundation sponsors scholarships for students at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and area community colleges.
Concluding her presentation, Ms. Urban noted that many Las Vegas community peer mediation programs have limited access due to the funding mechanisms. She also explained that the “Peace Begins in Pre-School” curriculum, developed in 1993 by the Neighborhood Justice Center with funds provided by the Economic Opportunity Board of Clark County, has been implemented in the “Head Start Program.” The program teaches conflict resolution and the Neighborhood Justice Center has recently received a grant to expand the program into additional preschool programs. Lastly, Ms. Urban informed the Commission of a web site, developed by a former schoolteacher, who is currently a scientist for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, called “teenthinktanks.com.” The web site provides information regarding the genesis and solutions of youth violence from the youth perspective.
Michael Fitzgerald, Coordinator, Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities, Nevada’s Department of Education, approached the Commission and discussed Assembly Bill 521 pilot programs.
He explained that A.B. 521 requires that the pilot schools conduct process and outcome evaluations. Representatives from the pilot schools have met to discuss evaluation methods. Further, evaluation services have been contracted to help specifically evaluate the schools. The evaluation will take into consideration four areas:
1. Methods by which a student is referred;
2. Reasons why a student is referred;
3. What happened to the student while in the program; and
4. What happens to the student after leaving the program.
The evaluation method will utilize surveys as well. Students who participate in the program will be surveyed, as will principals. The principal survey will determine if A.B. 521 has been implemented and if so, how. Further, the evaluation will consider information from schools that are both not in the pilot program and do not have alternative programs to determine how they address disruptive students. Finally, the evaluation will consider the traditional opportunity schools as well.
In conclusion, Mr. Fitzgerald opined that the community does not need more programs. Rather, it needs the benefit of more research to identify the components of programs that are effective. This will allow for implementation of these effective components to be further expanded and implemented.
Senator Wiener asked Mr. Fitzgerald to report on the status of the individual school districts in developing an emergency response plan. He explained that a follow-up letter from Mary L. Peterson, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Nevada’s Department of Education, is scheduled to be sent to the county superintendents by the week of April 17, 2000.
DISCUSSION AND OVERVIEW OF WORK SESSION
PROCESS AND PROCEDURE
Juliann Jenson, Senior Research Analyst, Research Division, Legislative Counsel Bureau, provided the Commission members with three documents (Exhibit F). Please refer to the “List of Exhibits” for details.
Ms. Jenson explained to the Commission members the work session procedure. She noted that at the work session, the Commission will vote on matters previously considered and discussed. Ms. Jenson will prepare a work session document that is a compilation of the recommendations and concepts presented during the tenure of the study. She reported that the recommendations to be discussed will come from correspondence, dialogue, minutes, and notes.
Continuing, Ms. Jenson directed the Commission members’ attention to Exhibit F, which contains an example work session documents. She noted that the organization will be similar and will tie issues together.
In order to compose the BDRs, the assistance of R. Rene Yeckley, Senior Deputy Legislative Counsel, Legal Division, Legislative Counsel Bureau, will be utilized. At the work session, Ms. Yeckley may need to ask the Commission for details in order to clarify recommendations.
In conclusion, Ms. Jenson explained that following the Commission’s work session, a final report will be drafted and Senator Wiener will present the recommendations to the appropriate standing committees during the 2001 Legislative Session.
Senator Valerie Wiener
Senator Wiener noted that Assemblywoman Parnell will assist in presenting the Commission’s recommendations to the appropriate Assembly standing committees during the 2001 Legislative Session. Further, she informed the Commission members that May 5, 2000, is the deadline to provide to Ms. Jenson information and recommendations to be included in the work session document.
Assemblywoman Parnell noted that when recommending programs, the Commission must remember that if there is a lack of school support staff (i.e., counselors and nurses), even the best programs cannot be successfully utilized and implemented. She urged the members to include sufficient staffing levels for such personnel in the recommendations.
Senator Wiener noted that there is a peer mediation program in Pennsylvania conducted by the state bar association. She suggested sending a letter to the State Bar of Nevada and the Nevada Trial Lawyers Association, recommending adoption of a similar project.
In conclusion, Senator Wiener suggested that the members avoid introducing completely new topics at the work session, in order provide ample time to address the issues presented at earlier meetings.
Ms. Bandera noted that she would like to consider recommending a list that includes the successful components of programs or processes that work. The list would be provided to schools to be used as a guideline when implementing programs.
Responding to Ms. Rees, Senator Wiener explained that the Commission may recommend mandates – by using the word “will” – or suggestions – by using the word “may”. Further, bills may contain a provision to allow for donations by private organizations or individuals.
Senator Weiner also requested Ms. Yeckley to confirm whether the Commission can utilize the language of A.B. 686 to expand its legislative potential beyond three BDRs to include not only recommendations, but also legislative resolutions.
DISCUSSION OF FUTURE MEETING DATES AND TOPICS
The Commission’s final meeting and work session is scheduled for May 24, 2000, at 9:30 a.m. in Carson City with videoconference to Las Vegas. At this meeting, the Commission’s recommendations to the 2001 Legislature will be finalized.
There being no further business to come before the Commission, the meeting was adjourned at 2 p.m.
Exhibit G is the “Attendance Record” for this meeting.
Senior Research Secretary
Juliann K. Jenson
Senior Research Analyst
Senator Valerie Wiener, Chairwoman
LIST OF EXHIBITS
Exhibit A, provided by Ralph Cadwallader, Executive Director, Nevada Association of School Administrators, is a document titled “Comments to the Legislative Commission on School Safety and Juvenile Violence.”
Exhibit B, provided by Debbie Cahill, Nevada State Education Association, is a document titled “Testimony to the Commission on School Safety and Juvenile Violence.”
Exhibit C, provided by Phil Gervasi, President, Police Officers’ Association, Clark County School District, is a document titled “Police Officers’ Association of the Clark County School District.”
Exhibit D, provided by DJ Stutz, Second Vice President, Nevada Parent Teacher Association, is a document titled “Comments to Legislative Commission on School Safety and Juvenile Violence.”
Exhibit E, provided by Ruth Urban, Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, consists of the following two packets of information titled:
1. “Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce – The Voice of Business”; and
2. “Nevada’s School to Careers – Tomorrow Begins Today.”
Exhibit F, provided by Juliann K. Jenson, Senior Research Analyst, Research Division, Legislative Counsel Bureau, consists of the following three items:
1. A document titled “Work Session Document – Example”;
2. An article from the New York Times titled “How Youngest Killers Differ: Peer Support”; and
3. A document titled “School Violence Internet Resources.”
Exhibit G is the “Attendance Record” for this meeting.
Copies of the material distributed during 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.