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DHS principal outlines safety measures

by Merrie Leininger

Principal Bev Jeans said Douglas High School was one of the few in Nevada not to experience copycat threats after the Littleton, Colo., school shooting, and she wants to keep it that way.

Jeans, who attended a one-day conference in Los Angeles with members of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office this summer, used the information to give her staff a profile of the type of teen-agers who would commit acts of school violence.

“If you have the idea of what to look for, and you observe it, then you will know what you’re observing,” she told her staff. “It’s not just (Vice Principal) Susan (Baldwin) and I that are responsible for the safety of this school. You are equally responsible. Students are responsible. Parents are responsible. We all share that responsibility.”

Those students capable of violence, who she called “classroom avengers,” generally fit a certain profile, she said.

They are white males about 16 years old from middle class backgrounds and live in the suburbs.

They are academically average to above average and not heavily involved in drugs or alcohol, she said.

“Administrators never see them because they’re not academic or attendance issues and you’re not referring them to us because they’re not in your face,” Jeans said.

The most important distinguishing features of these very average-looking students is they are social outcasts who are often teased or victimized at school and show signs of being suicidal.

“They look like regular kids. They dress like the mainstream, so they are difficult for us to recognize; but kids know these kids because they’re loners,” she said. “We need to open communication with the kids. That’s one of the biggest ways to prevent this.”

n Open communication. Jeans said other kids are always aware of the “classroom avengers” because they always verbalize their plans or write about their plans to other kids, even though parents and teachers may be “trained to leave them alone because they are not big behavior problems and they are standoffish and anti-social.”

In order to make it easier for both kids and adults to report possible dangerous students, or just a threatening comment a student has made, the school and the sheriff’s office created an anonymous tip line at 783-SAFE.

The state Legislature created a new law that allows the schools to expel a student for 30 days if they threaten anyone else in the school during school hours or after-school activities, and an hour before and after school or events.

Students will be made aware of this new law, along with all school policies regarding bullying, intimidation and sexual harassment during an assembly on Monday.

Parents are invited to the first monthly parent meeting of the year, Sept. 8, in which she will go over school safety, Jeans said.

Jeans said she hasn’t received any calls from concerned parents or students, but knows safety is always a concern.

“If parents have a concern, I want them to talk to Ms. Baldwin or myself so we can tell them what we have in place,” Jeans said.

n Locked up. The school is also piloting a new device that will eliminate keys and the possibility of someone duplicating a key.

The key pad will allow only teachers and staff who have their own code to enter the main building after hours and on the weekends.

Right now, staff members have to check out a key from the office if they plan on getting into the building other than 8 a.m.-3 p.m.

“We decided to pilot it on this building because the gym is in here and coaches need to get into this building,” she said. “Each person is given a code and a computer records who enters the building. If that proves to be successful, and we think it will, we will put them on the 400 and 500 buildings also. That way, every staff member will have a code and they can come in and work on the weekends and know no one else will be in the building that shouldn’t be.”