On February 14, 2018, the Parkland, Florida school shooting resonated throughout the country. The impact of having 14 students and 3 staff members killed, with 17 more individuals injured created deep and involved conversations regarding school safety.  

Of particular concern was the recognition of an ongoing pattern of school related violence. Unfortunately, this history is not new, with the first recorded school massacre occurring on July 26, 1764 in which the school master and 9 students were killed.

This event, known as the Enoch Brown School Massacre is little known, but is a reflection of a pattern that continues today. 

More recently, we recall incidents such as Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, and Parkland. Since the Parkland incident in February, an additional 24 shootings have occurred on school or college campuses. One of the last incidents occurred in Clark County on September 11, 2018 in which an 18-year-old young man lost his life at Canyon Springs High School. 

With an understanding that schools have an obligation to continue improvements for the safety of all students and staff, Governor Sandoval created a School Safety Task Force under executive order 2018-5. Prior to initiating this executive order, Governor Sandoval met with the Nevada superintendents on March 12, 2018 to seek the collective input of Nevada’s educational leaders. The message provided to the Governor centered on three primary recommendations: 

1) Increase the number of School Resource Officers;

2) Increase Mental Health Resources in schools; 

3) Provide critical funds to address Infrastructure Improvements.  

Upon initiation of the School Safety Task Force, representation from the superintendents was included on the committee. 

It was my privilege to be appointed to represent the 15 rural school districts working with representation from Clark and Washoe County. As a group, we were tasked to generate a final report to be submitted to the Governor no later than November 30, 2018. 

During a final task force meeting during late October, the recommendations to be submitted to the Governor were finalized and prepared for submission. The recommendations were synthesized into 6 global recommendations covering a broad range of topics and needs. A brief review of the final recommendations include:

Broad changes to NRS 388 addressing school safety and planning. 

Expanding services to support school-based mental health professionals and services.

Expand services and opportunities for additional school resources officers/school police in school districts. 

Provide a fiscal commitment to support safe learning environments.

Provide a fiscal commitment to school districts to expand school prevention and safety processes. 

Address statutory language addressing school discipline and the tracking of such. 

As a committee, there is a strong recognition that many of the recommendations have large fiscal expectations and commitments attached to each. 

Recognizing this fact, and in collaboration with the Governor and his office, it has been recommended that the Marijuana Tax funds which have been held in a “rainy day fund” since the 2017 session and now in excess of 80 million dollars be utilized to support these critical activities. 

By allocating resources that were originally intended for public education, these critical needs can be met without reducing allocations from other areas. As a district, I am excited for the additional opportunities that these recommendations can add to the work and progress that we have made in Humboldt County School District. Ultimately, with the commitment of our staff, board and community, we will continue to evaluate and implement necessary improvements to meet our communities and school’s needs. 

Despite this being a morbid topic, I want to close by putting it all in perspective. Though we have a strong obligation to continue our efforts to ensure all students and staff are safe on our campuses, schools continue to be the safest places to be. 

• In the last 5 years, there have been 301 deaths in America’s schools, with just over 500,000 death’s outside of schools. This equates to the fact that individuals are 1,600 times safer in school than outside schools. 

• We are 8 times more likely to be involved in a shooting incident in our homes, and 20 times more likely to be involved in such an incident in restaurants than at school. 

• Of all threats made in schools, 97.7% are not attempted, 2.6% are attempted but averted, and only 0.7% are carried out. 

With the addition of Safe Voice, we have added one more tool to encourage the sharing of concerns and issues allowing for immediate and meaningful interventions and supports. 

It has been my pleasure to represent rural Nevada on this task force and appreciate the support and recognition Governor Sandoval has provided in addressing this critical topic. 

Dr. David Jensen is superintendent of schools for Humboldt County School District and can be reached at 775-623-8218 or at djensen@hcsdnv.com.