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The Clark County School District administrative offices on Monday, Jan 16, 2017. Photo by Sam Morris.

The Clark County School District (CCSD) Board of School Trustees is accepting a subgrant of nearly $150,000 to combat gang activity starting this fall.

The board unanimously approved the award as part of its consent agenda, with no discussion, in a meeting on Thursday. It’s part of a larger $1.2 million grant from the federal Department of Justice that Nevada applied for with the stated goal “to dismantle MS-13, disrupt illegal enterprises, incarcerate MS-13 members and affiliates, and eliminate the threat of crimes committed by MS-13.”

About $100,000 will go to pay overtime and benefits to officers over the three-year grant period, with the rest going to cellphones, laptops and radios for the participating officers, according to district documents.

“Officers plan to meet with suspected juvenile gang members or potential recruits and their parents to identify and correct gang activity as an alternative to enforcement,” the district said in a statement announcing the grant. “(School district) officers will participate in the program on weekends and evenings to avoid affecting staffing the school day.”

Asked for further detail on how the officers will identify and interact with the participating youth and their families, a district spokesman referred a reporter back to the district’s written statement.

The overall grant, which the state applied for under the administration of then-Attorney General Adam Laxalt, drew criticism from lawmakers at a meeting earlier this summer who said it seemed to be linking unaccompanied, asylum-seeking minors with crime. Democratic Sen. Yvanna Cancela said she was concerned based on the wording of the grant application that the focus was targeted at Latinos and MS-13 rather than the gang problem at large. 

Other subgrantees include The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, UNLV, the Latin Chamber of Commerce and the Southwest Gang Information Center, a group headed by a professor and Fox News contributor who has advocated for more vetting of unaccompanied youth from Central America, saying they have “brought tangible fear and carnage throughout American communities.” 

Lawmakers also questioned the inclusion of the Latin Chamber among the recipients because that group is geared toward businesses. Democratic Attorney General Aaron Ford’s office said the chamber would help with mentoring and culturally specific programming.

Ford and his staff stressed to lawmakers and in a subsequent interview with The Nevada Independent En Espanol that the grant was sought by his predecessor, and he didn’t want the use of the grant funds to suggest he believes immigrant children coming to the U.S. without their parents are driving gang violence.

“My administration is going to use those funds, but I don’t want anyone to think that I think there’s a connection between unaccompanied minors — that they are in MS-13,” Ford said in Spanish on the Cafecito con Luz y Michelle podcast. “We don’t want anyone to be in a gang, so we’re going to use those funds to help everyone.”

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