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Bills in Nevada Assembly Education Committee seek to address student behavior

A group of assembly members sit on a brown dais in front of three people presenting to them.
Jose Davila IV
KUNR Public Radio
Assembly members hear a presentation on AB 285 at the Nevada Assembly Education Committee meeting on Thursday, Mar. 16, 2023, in Carson City, Nev.

During the Nevada Assembly Committee on Education meeting on Thursday, lawmakers heard presentations on two bills that would give districts more latitude in student discipline.

The bills’ sponsors are hoping to provide school districts with more latitude to suspend and expel students. The meeting comes after high-profile violent incidents in schools throughout the state.

Assemblywoman Angie Taylor of Reno introduced one of the bills.

“I have received feedback that the current system has created some unintended challenges which have, in turn, opened the door for safety issues in our schools,” Taylor said.

Her bill would remove the requirement for districts to submit a restorative discipline plan to the state and instead replace it with a more traditional progressive discipline plan informed by restorative practices. In addition, schools could suspend students without a restorative plan for up to 48 hours.

Taylor’s fellow committee members Alexis Hansen of Sparks and Selena Torres of Las Vegas presented a second bill more narrow in scope. That bill would raise penalties for distribution of controlled substances at schools.

Both bills would remove the minimum age restriction that prevents schools from suspending, expelling and permanently expelling students younger than 11.

Daniel Kirk, principal at Lemmon Valley Elementary in Reno, shared his view as a school administrator.

“We need the tools and the opportunity to give students either suspension, whether that is temporary or that is extended, or expulsion or permanent expulsion to ensure that we have the ability to provide that safety for our staff and our students,” Kirk said.

In a series of emotional public comments, several teachers shared stories of how their safety and that of their students has been threatened by other students. But some child advocates, public defenders and legal service providers opposed both bills.

A'Esha Goins represented the NAACP of Las Vegas at the meeting. She shared that she often fought in school as she was moved from home to home as a kid. She begged legislators to consider the futures of kids like her who could be permanently expelled under the bills.

“I’m urging you to consider these other children who all they know is what they’ve seen, and what they’ve gone through, and that’s what they’re acting out. Being expelled permanently should never be an option,” Goins said.

The committee also introduced a bill draft request from Governor Joe Lombardo that seeks to address restorative discipline.

Jose Davila IV is a corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

Jose Davila IV is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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