Courtesy photo
Mineral County School Board trustees attended a Saturday presentation in Reno of new bills that affect Nevada schools.

As the Nevada Legislators completed a lengthy term of reviewing and passing newly accepted Assembly (AB) bills and Senate (SB) bills this year, the NASB (Nevada Association of School Boards) brought Nevada District Trustees together for a Saturday morning review of the passed bills affecting the Nevada school system.

The Mineral County School Board was well-represented with newly appointed School Trustee, Kathy Castagnola (Term 2017-18); Trustee Schyler Hagen (Term 2017-2020); President Keith Neville (Term 2015-18) and Clerk Trustee Sheri Samson (Term 2017-18) attending the Reno presentation. A packet of the full summary of bills enacted by the 2017 Nevada legislature session and a “cliff notes version” outlining the direct impact upon local school districts brought discussion and questions that varied district to district.

With an effective legal date of July 1, 2017, a handful of these bills stood out for immediate action, creating unplanned district financial responses. Clark County has been tasked with a pioneering a complete overhaul of their school system becoming independent entities, in a test-market of new ideas within the largest Nevada school district.

The wordy SB287 bill brought concern as a major component to the child welfare issues as section 27,28,33,34 and 60 now requires all volunteers, chaperones and employees to undergo background checks, which must be repeated for update every five years for individuals. Many school districts had just learned they would be opening their doors this month without the proper timeframe to receive these appropriate FBI fingerprinting checks. Many rural school communities had concerns with the logistics of traveling upwards of four hours round-trip to a proper fingerprinting facility, plus incurring the added costs involved for the few volunteers they had already garnered for the year. Changes to sporadic or immediate volunteering would be stopped, as well as the concern to incorporate added fingerprinting costs, as no funds were allocated to the school districts by the state. Appropriation to a district employee needs to be assigned to oversee this requirement for properly filed documentation. District by district, large to rural locations will independently struggle for solutions to achieve timely compliance for their volunteers, as stated within this Senate bill.

New procedural standards have also been imposed, with SB287 giving a 24-hour constraint in reporting possible neglect or abuse issues. Questions arose as to who the exact reporting agent would be, as liability-related concerns were discussed. Correct interviewing processes will be determined district to district, as well as a review involving appropriate compensation, with the chance that a reporting staff member would be accruing overtime, should the report be made before a weekend.

Some of the new legislation bills will add new curriculum and instruction into the school system, such as AB85 requiring mandatory teaching of CPR and defibrillator instruction or AB127 mandating “lock-down” staff, pupil and parental procedures separately from fire drills. SB249 was presented as a financial literacy component to include age-appropriate understanding and topics from grades third through twelfth. The State allowed compensation for this bill, whereas many others were not given financial assistance to offset the costs.

There was an emphasis of bills passed that spoke to bullying and cyber-bullying which expanding the scope of concerns as this has become a national concern within schools. AB292 allowed for a school transfer if necessary, with more documentation of bullying required; AB305 requires a poster of information and toll-free safety numbers be posted; SB212 allows anonymous reporting and Safe-to-Tell program expansion; SB 225 clarified that a school safety team be established in each school. One bill, SB107, called for the suggested teaching of “Diversity and Ethnic Studies” but was not deemed mandatory the present time for teaching within every district.

SB213 involved Special Education measures and compliance, as well as Superintendent oversight.

With AB451, the School Board Trustees will now be required to complete no less than six units of specific training within their first and third year of a four-year term. No units taken the second or fourth years will be applied or rolled-over and the school board clerk will be responsible for tracking these units and posting them on the school website if not properly met. Completion certificates and units are handled by the NASB, with an emphasis on the specific areas of training called out by the legislation. One unit is equal to an hour and a half of properly monitored instruction.

These new policies and procedures, introduced by the 2017 State Legislation, will be appropriately entered into the school district handbooks/manuals as needed, as well as extended into proper instruction to all staff members directly involved. The State of Nevada has an expectant view that all school districts will be working within the confines of these new laws as stated. As new employment issues, safety regulations and varied compliance is currently being rolled out, a large undertaking is set forth upon every Nevada school district to meet the components set forth. As one school trustee stated, “Well, we are all set up to live within the law.”