Institute. We all have memories of that place, whether it’s the unflavored burrito beans served at lunch, the first party, or maybe the lecture we gave at graduation. But today’s high school students are trying to build memories in a much less pleasant environment. I asked my high school sister why she didn’t go to her school for basketball games. Surprisingly, he replied that he did not want to spray pepper, hearing other students say that the School Police (SPO) would pepper the students in almost every game. For many Las Vegas parents, may this scene make sense in a violent protest, or perhaps in an attempt to remove the bags, but in a high school basketball game?
For years, many CCSD students have gathered behind messages against the School Police, citing what they believe is an abuse of power. Although data from many reliable sources suggest that SPOs are increasing arrests for “non-criminal activities for youth,” according to the Brookings Institution, school districts, including ours in Southern Nevada, continue to expand police units. In fact, at the CCSD, the budget for licensed and support staff increased by only 1.4-1.8% between 2014-2019, while the SPO salary budget increased by 8.4% for the 2018-2019 Clark County School District according to the budget for the year. . This increase in the SPO salary was due to a historic shortage of teachers, as many educators referred to the need for a higher salary.
In addition to these already serious situations, the personal return to learning after the interruption caused by COVID-19 poses an even greater problem in terms of school discipline. We all experienced the special social consequences of the pandemic. Not only did it turn our lives upside down, but returning to a “normal” world meant learning how to re-engage with classmates and teachers. For children, this was and still is particularly difficult. K-12 students needed more than a year of online schooling in a home environment more than a year away from friends, and many missed opportunities to socialize with classmates and friends. More than ever, students are re-learning what to do and what not to do in the classroom. Our schools should be comfortable and cooperative, but the behavior of young people is too often repressive. In recent times, horrific incidents of violence against teachers and classmates, each of which is unforgivable, have caused increasing tension and an atmosphere of confrontation.
During the first seven months of the 2021-2022 school year, there was an unprecedented increase in CCSD school violence, with 6,827 police officers being called for violent offenses. In addition to these offenses, nearly 800 students were arrested, a staggering number of students were brought in or taken into juvenile detention. What can be done to address this growing problem of violence in our schools? The district continues to show in its budget and policy options that their response is more police. There is a time, however, when they continue to give worse and worse results to evaluate the effectiveness of political decisions. If school violence continues to rise, and school police budgets continue to rise, it may be time to look at other options for improving the safety of K-12 students, teachers, and staff.
Violence in CCSD schools is a significant problem given these data, and it is clear that the policies in place have not been successful in reducing these horrific incidents. However, the school district continues to seek methods of disciplinary conduct that only temporarily remove a student from school. Arresting a young person for their behavior and sending their children to other facilities is not conducive to providing adequate mental health services in our schools. Emotional and mental illness may be the underlying causes of some of the behavioral manifestations that are contributing to the growing crisis in the Clark County School District. The burden is not only on the mental health of the student. The American Psychological Association wrote a report on educators and school staff during COVID-19 and found that 49% of the 9,370 teachers surveyed nationwide “had a desire or plan to quit or transfer work.” It is not surprising that at least 1/3 of the teachers surveyed said that they had personally experienced at least one incident of violence against a student in the COVID-19 pandemic that affected that decision. This survey shows the extent of the increase in school violence. But how do you fix a problem that seems out of control?
Instead of relying solely on increasing investment in school police officers, CCSD should increase funding for mental health counseling, a service that is lacking in many CCSD schools. The National Alliance for Mental Illness reports that 20% of young people will develop mental health difficulties and 75% of children in K-12 will receive mental health care in schools. According to a recent publication by the Lincy Institute and Brookings Mountain West, Nevada ranks 50thth Measurements on the mental health of young people since 2015 and why the problem of school violence is no longer about child abuse.
Students have mental health concerns and deserve quality mental health professionals and resources. In an editorial in the Nevada Current magazine, Caitlin Saladino and William Brown talk about the ongoing action to increase funding for mental health at the state and national levels, but the change in Nevada does not seem to be keeping pace with the action. CCSD schools have a habit of accidentally dealing with the behavior of young people through unnecessary trauma and arrests, which can be derived from problems that need to be resolved with professional psychological support; increasing the level of funding only works if measures are not taken to use that money effectively. CCSD students have seen enough of the current discipline to know that it’s time to try something new, so why not start taking care of your young person’s physical well-being AND mental health?