LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — A group of Las Vegas area students and activists is calling for the school district to disband its police department saying a survey shows complaints from students of color who feel they’re being targeted.
Meanwhile, some parents say removing police presence from school campuses is the wrong approach.
On Wednesday, a demonstration took place at the Clark County School District headquarters. It comes on the heels of a new report by Youth Mandate, a nationwide movement that seeks to end the school-to-prison-to-deportation pipeline.
A survey from the organization found two in five students say they don't feel safe when they see police at school.
Local students and activists with “Make the Road Nevada” are calling for the Clark County School District Police Department to disband.
Ruth Dinberu, a sophomore at Spring Valley High School says students of color like herself feel targeted by officers on campus.
“It feels as though we are being watched," she said. "It feels as though they’re waiting for us to do something, so I think it creates a hostile learning environment.”
Of nearly 140 students surveyed in Clark County, more than half said they had or knew of another student who had a negative interaction with school police.
Of those students, two-thirds of Black and Brown students surveyed said the same thing.
The interactions students described include excessive force with pepper spray and verbal abuse or harassment.
Dinberu says there should be more investment in school counselors and mental health resources.
“If we are met with more mental health professionals and met with more restorative justice programs at schools, I feel we can stop a lot of these problems before they even happen,” she said.
However, some parents disagree.
Charlie Melvin with the group Power2Parent says they have an expectation that their kids will stay safe at school.
“If we are removing safety measures, then why would parents be comfortable with sending their children to school,” she said.
She also says school staff like teachers shouldn’t have security responsibilities, like breaking up fights, as many are not properly trained to do that.
“It is not their responsibility. Are we going to give teachers more responsibility for less pay? Are we really going to do that?” Melvin asked.
Dinberu argues more counselors and mental health specialists can be a proactive way to prevent many fights from even happening.
“A lot of these students that feel that aggression, that feel like a fight is just seen as a disruption, when this has been building up and students are crying out for help and not receiving the help that they need,” she said.
Melvin says if students of color are fearful of officers, the conversation should shift to bridging divides and suggest those same officers should go to classrooms where students can ask them questions about their role on campus.
“That way we have some relationships that are happening where more trust is built,” she said.
The school district shared a statement with 13 Action News, saying:
"CCSD Police are a fabric of the District with the common goal of all our employees and that is to ensure our students receive a rich and rigorous education by working to ensure school safety.
Our biggest priority is to keep students and employees safe. We strive to treat all students fairly and provide them with early interventions before behavior problems escalate. This will ensure our schools are safe places and our classrooms are more productive while helping to keep our students on the right track.
Additionally, CCSD Police are a part of the Clark County School Justice Partnership which works to hold students accountable for their behavior in order to learn from their mistakes, take responsibility for their actions, and reconnect to the school community by providing them with continuity and support from educators who interact with students on a daily basis.”