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WCSD trustees, public commenters discuss student behavior and discipline

A man in a black blazer and a black shirt speaks to a microphone with both hands raised.
WCSD Board Meetings Via YouTube
Trustee Joe Rodriguez highlights some policies that the district is pursuing to increase school safety.

During Tuesday’s Washoe County School District Board of Trustees meeting, members of the public criticized the district’s handling of student behavior and discipline.

The meeting comes shortly after high-profile violent incidents at district schools. Last week, a large fight involving multiple groups of students at Wooster High School resulted in two arrests and two ambulance trips.

The trustees heard six items related to school and student safety at the meeting. During public comment periods for each one, members of the public roundly criticized perceived lack of action, restorative discipline policies, and violence in schools.

Renee Rezentes was one such commenter.

“If we don’t put some teeth in this, it’s not going to stop. It’s going to just continue to escalate. If the kids think that they can ignore, if the parents and the authorities are going to ignore their bad behavior, then they’re going to push it, because that’s what kids do,” Rezentes said.

Those who spoke often mentioned former educator Paul White and his Education Crusade group. That group has called for a teardown of the school district. White was also an advisor to Joey Gilbert.

Trustee Jeff Church offered the harshest comments of any trustee.

“This is a crisis now. Teachers being assaulted is a crisis now. And I said I wouldn’t send my student, my grandkids or great-grandkids to school here. I meant that. I stand by that,” Church stated. “Nor would I suggest my daughter or my stepdaughter or grandkids be a teacher or a substitute here.”

In general, the trustees, including Church, agreed that the district needs to be able to remove disruptive students from classrooms and communicate consistent expectations for behavior.

Trustee Joe Rodriguez, in closing comments, wanted community members to know that work is being done.

“We have a firearm dog that’s being implemented and apparently that’s not enough and I'll agree, that is not enough. That’s just one step,” he shared. “We do have a drug dog that’s in discussions that's looking at being implemented as well. You have trustees here that are looking to bring on more police officers. We bring solutions, we don’t just talk about it.”

The board approved spending over four million dollars in federal COVID relief funds on a safety alert system for teachers to reduce incident response times.

The image included in this story is a screenshot from the Washoe County School District’s Board of Trustees livestreamed meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023. Click here to view the recorded video on YouTube.

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

Jose Davila IV reports on K-12 education with a focus on Latino students and families in Northern Nevada and the Eastern Sierra. He is also a first-year Report for America corps member. Es bilingüe, su familia es de Puerto Rico, y ama los tostones de su padre más que nada.
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