Tyler Hamilton, a senior at Advanced Technologies Academy, watched a man lose his life at the Route 91 Harvest music festival.
They were both standing in the front row — a location littered with bullets after a lone gunman opened fire on the concert venue last October. Nearly a year later, the 18-year-old addressed the statewide School Safety Task Force and asked members to consider recommending that certain teachers carry weapons.
After sharing his experience as a mass-shooting survivor on Monday, Hamilton posed a question: “What happens when the threat is in our hallways?”
And then he offered a solution: “As controversial as it is, I think we need to figure out a way to possibly having a better armed response at our schools — possibly arming some of our teachers. Not all of them because I don’t believe that’s the answer.”
The suggestion drew rebukes from several other teens who spoke during the public meeting, illustrating that even students don’t always agree on how best to bolster school safety. For more than an hour, students testified at the third meeting of the task force, which Gov. Brian Sandoval created through an executive order earlier this year.
It was the second such listening session for the task force. Students also spoke during the inaugural task force meeting.
The students spoke candidly about their desires for more mental health services and their anxieties caused by active-shooter drills. In the process, they also offered practical suggestions such as:
• Requiring students to wear identification lanyards to make it easier to spot people who shouldn’t be in the building.
• Having a nurse or medical professional present during active-shooter drills to help students who experience anxiety.
• Setting aside time during the school day for bonding activities that help students and teachers get to know each other.
• Installing more security cameras to eliminate blind spots within schools.
Alexiz Jenkins, a senior at Veterans Tribute Career and Technical Academy, threw her support behind an existing policy at her school that aims to reduce social media-related problems: When students enter a classroom, they slide their electronic devices into a “cell phone pocket.”
The benefits of that system, as described by Jenkins, provide a glimpse into the technology fears that today’s students face on a daily basis.
“You’re not worried about someone taking pictures of you in class, someone tweeting something about you, someone testing something about you,” she said. “You’re focused on your learning. Everyone’s phone is in that pocket until the bell rings.”
Dale Erquiaga, who chairs the task force, told the students he admires their “level of authenticity” and willingness to join the discussion.
The Valentine’s Day shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 people dead, galvanized a student-led movement that swept the nation. Students have staged walkouts and rallies to advocate for safety enhancements and, in some cases, gun reform.
Sandoval’s executive order asked task force members to deliver 10 long-term recommendations by the end of November. The task force already issued an initial report, which included a request for an omnibus bill detailing safety and crisis planning, response and recovery.
The task force will meet a final time Oct. 25. The recommendations that emerge from the task force could help guide lawmakers ahead of the 2019 legislative session, although they aren’t binding and the state’s new governor, who will be elected in November, may steer the safety conversation a different direction.
Sandoval has made school safety a priority his final year in office. He’s termed out come January.