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Lawmaker Hopes To Use Lessons Learned From Sparks Middle Shooting

In reviewing what happened before and during the Sparks Middle School shooting in 2013, emergency management and education officials have learned a lot. That's what Democratic Assemblywoman Teresa Benitez-Thompson said during her testimony this week for a bill to update safety procedures in Nevada schools based on lessons learned at Sparks. Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss reports.

The bill calls for an annual state conference to discuss school safety procedures. It would require schools to conduct lock down drills more frequently and to design school buildings to protect against all types of threats, not just natural disasters.

The measure would also set a goal for narrowing the ratio between students and mental health workers so that districts would hire a counselor or social worker for every 250 students. Benitez-Thompson says that will take a lot of tasks off of teachers' plates who are not trained for that line of work.

"We can let teachers be teachers," she explains. "We don't have to ask a teacher to be a teacher, a social worker, and a mental health professional all at once."

Benitez-Thompson says the new ratio is a lofty goal now, but a good one to aspire to since it's recommended by the National Association of Social Workers. Not wanting to push the cost onto school districts, she's working with Assembly budget committees to secure funding, but that's not set in stone now.

Michelle Billman is a former news director at KUNR Public Radio.
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