By VERNON ROBISON
Moapa Valley Progress
What would happen within the first five minutes should a single-shooter incident ever occur in a Moapa Valley school? That is what local parents wanted to know during a meeting of the Moapa Valley Community Education Advisory Board (MVCEAB) on Friday, March 9.
With the tragic recent events in Parkland, Florida still fresh in mind, MVCEAB members asked for an accounting from school officials and local law enforcement on what preparations have been made should such an unthinkable event occur in a local school.
The discussion began with a presentation by Moapa Valley High School dean of students Dr. James Lake. He talked about measures being taken at MVHS to prevent such a tragedy from happening to begin with.
Lake stressed the importance of people who notice potential problems or who have concerns about security to report those concerns to school officials.
“It is important that even the kids feel invested in protecting their peers and keeping things safe at school,” Lake said. “I’ve had kids come forward to report incidents of kids being bullied, for example, and they aren’t even the ones being bullied. I’d hope that they would come forward if they saw someone bringing a weapon to school or something like that. The kids know what is going on out there a lot of times. Their openness and feedback can be the most effective way to keep the place safe.”
Lake said that reports about bullying, violence, weapons on campus or other related safety issues are dealt with immediately at the high school. Parents of any children involved would be called and notified immediately so that issues could be dealt with and appropriate resources employed to help the children involved, he said.
Lake talked about a district-wide program called SafeVoice Nevada. This new online platform is available to all community members for reporting concerns about school safety, student well-being and community concerns.
A mobile app is available for download so that community members can download on their phones. It can be found on app stores under “Safe Voice Nevada.” Also information about the program can be found online at http://safevoicenv.org.
In addition, Lake explained that MVHS administrators have discussed improvements to the school that might enhance security. These included installation of bulletproof glass on exterior entry doors, constructing double doors at the main entrance of the school which would require a buzz-in entry for visitors to gain access to the school and enhanced security fencing around the perimeter of the school.
Lake also talked about a focus on fostering a positive culture and climate at the school. He was emphasizing the reduction of the number of students that were receiving ‘F’ grades in their classes.
Under this program, students who had received failing grades on assignments will be required to report to In House suspension during any open periods until they can bring up their grades.
Lake also is also making a concerted effort to be more visible before and after school. He also said that he is instituting events to reward positive behavior among students.
CCSD Police representatives were also present at last week’s meeting to discuss plans and strategies in place to maintain security at the schools. Local CCSD officer Ray Jewett said that he spends his time visiting all of the local schools each day, getting a feel for the security issues at each one.
Jewett admitted that, being the only local CCSD officer, his resources are limited. But he said that he works closely in coordination with local Metro officers in planning and preparation.
“The big thing is that it is just us out here if something happens,” Jewett said. “So we rely on each other. We train together on things and we work together on tactics of what we would do at each school if something happened.”
MVCEAB member Lindsey Dalley said that he appreciated that Jewett had been assigned to the area. He admitted that the security level has increased having him in the local schools. However, Dalley also expressed a preference that Metro officers take the lead in the planning for major security concerns.
“With all due respect, I am nervous about the district taking the lead from Las Vegas,” Dalley said. “We have seen how that looks before and it doesn’t work out very well. They have their policies and procedures but they are designed for urban schools, not for out here. The Metro officers have been here for a long time and know what is going on.”
Dalley said that if a real solution was to be reached from the district’s perspective, there would need to be a “frank discussion about reality.” He listed a couple of examples of what he termed reality.
“The first was the fact that it took nine months of begging and pleading from the community, even before we had school police out here, just to get a key to the local schools for Metro,” Dalley said. “Another example was the recent flood disaster that we had. It was a nightmare. And the only agency that was functioning reasonably was Metro, because they knew the logistics, the people and the issues.”
“That is why, if we are going to have a valid security plan, I think that it has to be Metro taking the lead in that,” Dalley said.
Local Metro Sergeant Bret Empey stated that because the schools were CCSD property, the school police would be in charge of the security planning. But he did emphasize that those plans would be reviewed by local Metro officers who would have input.
“We will definitely look over the plans because things are different out here,” Empey said. “We will have input because we know what will work and what won’t, given our resources. But we won’t take the lead. We will defer to them on that.”
Local Metro officer Corey Estes added that the planning process was not just starting from the beginning. Rather they were in place and evolving.
“We are not behind the curve on this locally,” Estes said. “We recognized more than ten years ago that there were some unique needs out here. So we came up with a program on active shooter scenarios that is taylored to those unique needs. Now CCSD police is more involved in that. But the plans are still in place.”
Despite all of this, the question arose again among MVCEAB members: What would be done within the first 4-5 minutes of an active shooter incident?
“We understand that the police resources are stretched and we don’t blame you for that,” Dalley said. “But the concern is that, in the worst case scenario, you might not get there until it is all over. So what is in place during those crucial first few minutes?”
MVCEAB member Teresa Holzer asked about the possibility of allowing for certain trained teachers or school staff to carry concealed weapons at the school.
CCSD Associate Superintendent Grant Hanevold said that this was not the first request the district has received on that matter. It was not even the first request within his own area of supervision. A couple of his schools in Las Vegas had made similar requests, he said.
“Under the NRS, there is language that gives the principal some discretion on that matter,” Hanevold said. “But the district’s stance has always been ‘no’ on that. The superintendent has firmly said that he wants less guns in the school and not more. So it has become a policy issue for CCSD that needs to be clarified. And requests have been made for that to be clarified.”
Dr. Lake explained that the school staff and students had been undergoing extensive training on how to increase safety in the first crucial minutes of an incident. He said that the school does regular practice lockdowns so that both teachers and students can understand fully what to do in those situations.
Lake said that the drills had been performed in various times of days during classtime situations. Upcoming drills would focus on times when students are out of classrooms; such as during nutrition breaks or passing periods. These times are more logistically challenging, he said.
Lake emphasized that the drills were not taken lightly and were not allowed to be a laughing matter by students.
“We take them very seriously,” Lake said. “As we do these drills, I have made it a goal to visit every class to talk about the scenario and emphasize the importance of the students knowing what their next move should be. When you practice these things, your bodies and minds are already keyed for that instance.
There is a muscle memory reaction and that is what we are looking for. The goal is that they will know automatically what to do and they won’t just panic in the moment.”