Solving school violence: Community experts on what areas need improvement

On March 10, Clark County School District trustees will discuss ways to stop school violence.
Published: Feb. 23, 2022 at 7:38 PM PST
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LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- On March 10, Clark County School District trustees will discuss ways to stop school violence. This comes after a video recently circulated online showing a Las Vegas student viciously punching another student at her desk.

Meantime, community experts shared on Wednesday exactly what they’re seeing and how they feel the situation could improve.

“We are seeing many more referrals coming our way,” said Harbor leader Cheryl Wright, who serves as the assistant director of the Clark County Department of Juvenile Justice Services.

CCSD is the most common referral source for families to the Harbor, a juvenile assessment center with several valley locations offering free mental health services. However, Wright said these days, they’re seeing more families come in on their own volition, seeking help before a breakdown.

“Some of the consequences of COVID have been devastating for families, including financial issues, isolation for children, parent substance abuse, parent mental health issues,” said Wright.

When kids lash out, Harbor staff will diagnose why. Oftentimes, Wright says the causes are a mental health condition, substance use issues or “kids that are having difficulty regulating their behavior,” she said.

A CCSD high school teacher said bad behavior is something teachers have seen too much of this year.

“Stuff that we have been dealing with is stuff we have not dealt with in years’ past, prior to COVID,” said Rebecca Kennard, a high school teacher. “Students throwing things, whether it be furniture, or their items, or throwing teachers’ items, or stealing things from teachers’ desks.”

Kennard said the problem is exacerbated by one particular type of staff shortage.

“We cannot hire enough support staff ... campus monitors,” said Kennard. “They monitor the bathroom, the hallway, the entrance, the exits, they have a radio.”

According to CCSD’s jobs website, a campus security monitor’s role is to “observe student behavior and prevent violations of school rules or unsafe activities which may include physical interventions ... For example, jogging or running after a student to prevent them from doing harm to him/her self or others.”

A search shows more than 30 open job listings for campus security monitors. Kennard says these positions are vital to ensuring kids are behaving themselves, but teachers are busy.

“I have students who leave my class and go to the restroom for 30 to 40 minutes at a time,” said Kennard. “And what can you do? I have to watch a class of 35 kids! I can’t leave to go check on that student in the restroom.”

This is putting more pressure on parents to ensure their students are stable and getting the help they need. But Wright said she wants to remind you that help is out there.

The county-led Harbor locations offer free wraparound mental health services, peer support and mentoring, among other services, and there are now five locations across the Vegas valley.

“We have more capacity at the Harbors to serve youth and families now,” said Wright. She encourages families who need help to not be afraid to come in and check them out. “The more we talk about mental illness, the more it reduces the stigma around it.”

The Harbors accept walk-ins and are open seven days a week until 10 p.m.