Las Vegas Sun

November 20, 2018

Currently: 55° — Complete forecast

Nevada AG safe campus plan cites mobile app, ‘red flag’ laws

Updated Thursday, June 28, 2018 | 12:07 p.m.

Hardening school campuses, encouraging students to report troubled classmates and having the Legislature look at so-called "red flag" laws to confiscate guns from people deemed to be a threat are among ways to make Nevada schools safer, the state attorney general said Thursday.

A school safety report from Attorney General Adam Laxalt calls for expanded use of a mobile app called SafeVoice Nevada, widening an assessment program to identify and track troubled students from one school to another, and added armed officers on campus who, in Laxalt's words, are "trained, armed and able to immediately take out an assailant."

"It was unanimous in our summit that the more resources they have, the faster they can respond to a school incident," Laxalt said in an interview.

Laxalt referred to a "summit" he convened with law enforcers and school officials in March — the same day students walked out of schools to remember the 17 people killed in a shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

Laxalt told The Associated Press the question of letting teachers carry guns on campus should be left to individual school districts.

"I would not propose that we force anyone who doesn't want to to carry a gun," he said.

The Republican attorney general, who is running to replace term-limited GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval, said he also spoke broadly about school safety with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday in Reno.

Laxalt's 32-page report is separate from a study commissioned in February by Sandoval.

A 25-member task force has been meeting and plans to submit its report to the governor in August, Christy McGill said, a state education official involved in both efforts. She said the governor's task force may incorporate some elements of Laxalt's report in its recommendations for changes to state law.

"We're really pushing for everyone to work as a team," McGill said.

Since most school shootings are carried out by students at schools they attend, Laxalt's report said federal grants could fund expansion of a student tracking system more comprehensive than one already used in the Clark County School District in and around Las Vegas. It would flag for administrators those students who pose "even a marginal threat of violence to other students and teachers."

Laxalt, who has campaign backing from the National Rifle Association, has been blamed with Sandoval for not enacting a gun background check initiative that they opposed but that voters approved in November 2016. It would turn over to the FBI the responsibility for vetting gun buyers during private gun sales. Sandoval and Laxalt say that a state gun-buyer screening program is more complete, and that the FBI has refused to take the job.

"Our current system is a strong system— more comprehensive than the federal system," Laxalt said Thursday.

His recommendation is to automate and streamline the state Central Repository for Nevada Records of Criminal History to more quickly add mental health findings and court records of actions such as protective orders.

"We want to ensure there are no gaps in the system for people wanting to purchase firearms, and that law enforcement can access information in real time," Laxalt said.

The Legislature next year should consider a "red flag" law to allow judges to approve petitions to confiscate guns from people found to pose a "serious and immediate threat of violence to themselves or others," the report said.

Laxalt said any measure must also ensure "proper due process for the person potentially getting their firearm seized."

Hardened campuses could be built with bullet-resistant materials, perimeter fencing and key-card identification at doorways, the report said. It points to upgraded video surveillance with more cameras in classrooms; public address systems capable of reaching students and teachers on campus; and the ability to promptly notify family members in an emergency.

The report recommends encouraging more students, parents, teachers and administrators to use the Nevada SafeVoice mobile app, and calls for Sandoval to sign a "statement of emergency regulations" to allow tips about school threats to be forwarded to police and sheriffs for investigation.

It provides an attorney general's office opinion that a Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 requirement for parental permission to disclose information does not apply because school officials can invoke a health and safety exception.