Thursday, March 1, 2012 | 11:26 p.m.
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Luis Arambula and his wife, Mixaly, sat in a Valley High School theater full of empty seats Thursday night to hear from Clark County School District police entrusted with the safety of their 5-year-old son and more than 300,000 other students.
“I think it’s good for the transparency of the school district,” Luis Arambula said.
The meeting at Valley High School at 2839 Burnham Ave. is the first of a five-month awareness program intended to spark a dialogue between school law enforcement and the community.
Officer Anthony Cooke briefed the half dozen in attendance about the history and operation of the department that has 141 officers securing 356 schools and district facilities around the valley.
CCSD Police Lt. Ken Young said the forum has been in the works for months and was not created in light of a recent incident in which an officer at Green Valley High School drew his gun on unarmed student who attacked him.
“Officers will use discretion as to what tools to use,” Young said. “The officer’s reaction is determined by the aggression.”
Young went on to say that officers within the department receive the same training as Metro Police officers and that CCSD Police work closely with Metro and other law enforcement agencies.
One of the major things learned from the Columbine shooting was the amount of time it took for officers to respond, said Young, referring to a shooting at a Denver-area high school that left 15 people dead, including the two student shooters.
CCSD Police are also able to assist with incidents that occur around a school, such as one in the southwest Las Vegas Valley on Thursday that put an elementary school on lockdown.
Use of firearms in securing campuses was just one topic covered in the evening’s program. Questions arose about school police patrolling traffic on highways and in neighborhoods not adjacent to schools.
“It’s not lawful, it’s beyond their jurisdiction and authority,” said Karen Gary of the Nevada Policy Research Institute.
Young answered the question by saying school police officers assist outside agencies when schools are secure.
“We take care of home first,” Young said.
Young said he hopes to work with parents to resolve issues, such as high-traffic congestion during school arrival and dismissal times.
“That makes us very happy, a task force for traffic,” Luis Arambula said. “The most important thing is our kids. We always start thinking about them when one of them gets run over.”
The 36-year-old father attended the meeting to voice his concerns about a gun that was allegedly flashed during a fender-bender outside his son’s elementary school.
“It’s very important that parents get involved,” Luis Arambula said. “We can’t leave everything to our teachers.”
But with so few parents in the room, the information may not reach everyone quickly.
“This was an epic fail in terms of publicity,” said Dane Claussen of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada.
Claussen acknowledged that it was the first event and said he expects more substantive content in future meetings.
Young hopes for more parents to attend in future meetings that will cover topics such as gang violence and the department’s procedure for handling drugs and alcohol on campus.
“We’re not defeated tonight,” he said.
The next meeting is scheduled at Valley High School at 7 p.m. on April 5.
For more information about CCSD Police call the department at 799-7830 or visit the CCSD website.