LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Family is everything to Technical Sergeant Ruston Gilmore.
An F-16 avionics systems craftsman at Nellis Air Force Base, he's inked his family tree on his arm in celebration of their collective love for video games.
A love he passed on to his 12-year-old son, Tommy, who's using it now to help himself heal.
"He was really broken. He told us 'I don't feel safe going to that school anymore. I'm tired of it. Please help me.'"
Like most students, Tommy looked forward to being back at school after the pandemic closed district classrooms. This was his first year at Anthony Saville Middle School in North Las Vegas.
But sixth grade on campus didn't last.
"We felt like we can't protect him how we want to," said Gilmore. "And that's one of the many things that culminated into him doing homeschool."
Tommy's parents pulled him out of Saville due to multiple incidents of bullying and violence.
"He was in the gym and he was at his locker and a kid came up and grabbed him in his private parts, and my son's reaction was to turn around and push somebody, but he pushed the wrong kid. And this led to a group of kids holding him back and kicking him repeatedly in his private parts."
Privacy laws prevent 13 Investigates from verifying those details with the district.
The school's response left the Gilmore family feeling failed.
"They played the whole 'boys will be boys' card," says Gilmore. "We never heard anything about it. Obviously, laws exist and we can't ask what happened to the other kid, but we have to have faith that these schools and specifically the district is going to do what it can to protect the kids."
Gilmore says their faith faded when Tommy was attacked again on March 7.
"He was getting close to first period when this kid who was messing with him [the previous] Friday pointed at him and five other boys came over and grabbed his hair, pushed him down, and started kicking him in the back of the head and the neck and the legs."
They filed a report with school police who investigated and issued two citations.
The district also says disciplinary action was taken. But no one at Saville would talk to us about that incident or the larger topic of violence on their middle school campus.
"It mortifies me! And I feel for them because I'm a parent as well. And as a parent, I don't blame them for pulling their child out," said CCSD middle school teacher Kelly Edgar.
"I bet at that school their hands were tied," said Edgar. "And it starts at the top. There's nothing they can do! Because they're not allowed to expel those kids because they didn't have a weapon!"
That was the case until last week when the district revised its expulsion policy once again amid a wave of violence, mostly at local high schools.
"I had a colleague at a local high school who was assaulted by a student for asking for a hall pass. And that student was back on campus with just a metaphorical slap on the wrist," said Edgar.
Though the total number of incidents on school campuses has gone down in recent years, "The level of violence we are witnessing is much worse," said CCSD District C Trustee Trustee Evelyn Garcia Morales. "On behalf of the board, we want to let you know that we hear our community loud and clear where violence in schools is inexcusable."
A few years ago, there were more expellable offenses in CCSD:
- Battery on a school employee
- Battery to any student with significant injury
- Drugs or alcohol
When Superintendent Jesus Jara introduced the Restorative Justice program, that changed.
"It's not perfect," Dr. Jara admitted. "I'll be the first one to tell you it's not perfect, but we can't just toss it."
Under Restorative Justice, which prioritizes rehabilitation over punishment, students could only be recommended for expulsion due to weapons.
Now, major fights that cause campus disruptions are back on the recommended expulsion list, and that's not all.
"If there is a battery on staff or battery on a student leading to a citation, that will be a recommended expulsion along with re-engagement — getting to the root cause of the student's issue around mental health," explained CCSD Chief College, Career and Equity Officer Dr. Mike Barton.
The Gilmore family believes, "The administration just totally fails the students."
And for teacher Kelly Edgar, it's too little, late.
"I feel demoralized. I don't feel respected anymore. And so, I am hoping to retire in two years. And I'm only year 24. I should have six more years but I'm not sure I'm going to make it."
For continuing coverage of school safety in Clark County School District, visit ktnv.com/SchoolSafety.