Only a month into the new academic year, police have investigated seven gun-related incidents at Clark County School District campuses — prompting a deeper look into the burgeoning problem.
The situation grew more worrisome Tuesday when an 18-year-old student was gunned down outside Canyon Springs High School. The male victim, who has not been identified by the coroner, later died at University Medical Center.
Clark County Superintendent Jesus Jara called the situation “devastating” and reiterated that student safety remains his top concern.
He announced the formation of an advisory group — made up of principals, teachers, parents and students, among others — that will examine the problem and recommend ways to eliminate the unlawful existence of weapons on campus. The group will issue its recommendations to Jara by Dec. 1, and then he will bring those to the Board of Trustees.
“My real concern is making sure that my children — all 322,000 of them — when they come to school, they’re free to learn in a safe environment,” he said.
The North Las Vegas Police Department is serving as the lead agency investigating the Canyon Springs shooting, which happened at 2:40 p.m. after an altercation between the victim and suspect. The suspect fled prior to officers’ arrival and has not been arrested.
Tuesday’s incident marked the first time shots were fired on a school campus this year, but police have been dealing with a surge in weapon-related incidents. During the last school year, a total of 18 firearms were recovered on school campuses, School District Police Capt. Roberto Morales said.
This school year was only hours underway Aug. 13 when police recovered a loaded, 40-caliber handgun from a student at Green Valley High School. Since then, police have responded to six other incidents involving firearms on campuses, he said.
The most recent event occurred Wednesday morning — less than 24 hours after the shooting outside Canyon Springs High School. Police arrested a 17-year-old student in possession of a loaded handgun at Desert Rose High School, Morales said. Additional details about that incident were not immediately available.
Still, school police acknowledged that it has been difficult pinpointing why students are bringing firearms to school.
“They’re not speaking,” Morales said. “They’re not giving us that information.”
School Police Chief James Ketsaa said the guns recovered were either involved in another crime or not properly tracked by their lawful owner. Police urged gun owners to report stolen weapons or ammunition to authorities as soon as possible.
Ketsaa also announced that he’s assigning a school police officer to work with Metro Police’s gang unit. He said it’s a “very good possibility” that some of these gun incidents have gang ties. The school district’s police department previously operated a gang unit, and Ketsaa didn’t rule out reviving it if necessary.
“We will do whatever it takes to try to combat this problem,” he said.
Brigid Duffy, who directs the juvenile division of the Clark County district attorney’s office, echoed that point. She described it as a community issue that needs collaboration among all entities involved in these cases.
“When you bring guns into school, the district attorney’s office is going to take that very seriously and, in working with the school district, will ensure we get the best prosecution,” she said.
School officials implored students and community members to report suspicious activity or threats to SafeVoice Nevada, an anonymous reporting system. Information can be reported via the SafeVoice website, mobile app or by calling 1-833-216-7233.
Trustee Carolyn Edwards said the school district has received 730 tips through the SafeVoice system since Aug. 1. All tips, however big or small, are investigated.