By Sig and Lori Rogich, The Reno Gazette Journal, April 7, 2023
Nevada schools are in a state of crisis as classroom violence increases across our state. Over the past four years, we’ve seen a 46 percent rise in harassment, threats and sexual assaults within the Clark County School District alone. Washoe County and rural Nevada have seen similarly disturbing patterns, making this a statewide problem affecting countless Nevada schools.
Teachers and students have the right to be safe in their classrooms, but Nevada is failing to provide for their security. Right now, teachers and administrators have been handcuffed and unable to adequately address misbehaving and, all too often, violent students.
This systemic problem calls for action. Fortunately, Gov. Joe Lombardo has proposed the Safer and Supportive Schools Act, a new legislation ensuring more secure learning environments across our state.
This legislation restores a teacher’s ability to temporarily remove a student from the classroom if the student poses a danger or a risk of harm to another person or property, or if the student’s behavior unreasonably interferes with the learning experience of other students. It also removes the restorative justice plan that was previously developed by the Department of Education. Removing this will ensure students who act violently do not continue to threaten classroom safety.
Developed with education leaders from superintendents to teachers to support staff and administration representatives — as well as parents — this legislation will bring much-needed changes to school safety in Nevada. It will require the suspension or expulsion of any student who commits battery, sells or distributes any controlled substance at school at a school-sponsored activity, or on a bus. A student in possession of a firearm or a dangerous weapon will be suspended or expelled. If caught a second time, the student will be permanently expelled. If a student is suspended or expelled, they may be assigned to a temporary alternative placement or enrolled in a private school or a program designed for students that have been suspended or expelled.
This legislation will apply to each public school, charter school and university school for profoundly gifted students. These schools will be required to report all data on discipline to the superintendent of the school district, administrative head of the charter school or university school, as applicable. As a result, schools will no longer be required to report the data to the board of trustees.
We appreciate the concern that minority students, disabled students, foster students and homeless students must be protected from unfair or disproportionate discipline. We also appreciate the concern that any student who brings a gun or a dangerous weapon to school, sells or distributes drugs, assaults another student or teacher or destroys property must be disciplined.
We believe that the Safer and Supportive Schools Act balances both concerns. This legislation implements strong accountability measures to ensure all students are treated equally. All public, charter and university schools will track disciplinary actions and will address any actions identified as being unfair or disproportionate. These accountability measures have the support of educational professionals at all levels and are designed to protect all students from unfair or disproportionate discipline.
The Safer and Supportive Schools Act ensures that we are not only keeping students, teachers, and staff safe, but at the same time, we are providing support to students who need it most and ensuring that they, too, can continue to learn.
This legislation allows teachers to control their classrooms and do their jobs. It gives parents peace of mind that their children are safe at school. And it gives students the safe environment needed to learn.
Gov. Joe Lombardo should be commended for swiftly acting on a crisis that has been allowed to grow for far too long. We hope our State Legislature will join together and embrace this commonsense legislation to quickly improve safety and security for schools across Nevada.
The protection of our children is at stake; it’s time to do what’s best for them.
Sig and Lori Rogich are lifelong education advocates. Mr. Rogich has a White House Blue Ribbon Middle school named after him for significant work he has done for the CCSD throughout the years. Mrs Rogich is also an active advocate for special needs children who learn differently.