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West bus drivers are seen with cell phones

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By Don Pace

The West Las Vegas school board is addressing issues such as bus drivers using cell phones and bullies, among other problems.

Superintendent Jim Abreu and the school board said during a meeting this week that they were concerned about bus drivers talking on cell phones while driving students.

Abreu said the state Public Education Department doesn’t have jurisdiction over a districts’ decisions to write policies on such matters.

School board president Kenny Lujan noted that board vice president Gary Gold, who is also the Las Vegas police chief, had pushed for a city ordinance banning cell phone use while driving and said the district should also take a stand on the issue.

Gold said bus drivers should be paying complete attention on their driving while transporting kids.

Abreu said he, along with the transportation director, would issue a requirement that bus drivers use cell phones only for emergencies.

“I can name names of bus drivers I have seen or have heard of using a cell phone while driving kids. I’ve been talking to Rick Vigil (bus company owner and state representative) about a bus driver he’s been using that uses a cell phone, and I prefer that he not drive our kids,” Abreu said.

Vigil couldn’t be reached for comment this morning.

All board members agreed that bus drivers are responsible for the safety of students they are driving.

Also this week, the board enacted 22 different policy advisories that cover things such as board conduct, compulsory attendance ages, graduation requirements, and student concerns, complaints and grievances; the definition of bullying and harassment are included in that policy.

Abreu said the board had not addressed the policy manual for several months and wanted to hold a work session and discuss them at one time.

“It was good for discussion and questions that need to be answered about these policies,” Abreu said.

The board had a number of questions on the school’s anti-bullying policy, a policy Abreu said he was concerned about.

“This is very important because this addresses the New Mexico state requirement. The state Legislature asked us to implement an anti-bullying policy in our school district as of August. We haven’t really got to our policies, but we got an extension from the state to approve this by our December meeting,” Abreu told board members.

Abreu said the district already has policies in place that handle students who disrupt class, interfere with other students and other inappropriate actions between students.

“Now we have to call it anti-bullying and be very specific — this is an initiative from the governor,” Abreu said.

Lujan and board member Caroline Lopez asked if Internet bullying would be covered.

“This policy covers any and all of that,” Abreu said.

Gold added that the school is responsible for adhering to district policies, but law enforcement would take care of any criminal activity.

Abreu said the policy relating to bomb threats has been removed from the policy manual in favor of a tactical emergency handled by police. He said the school’s responsibility is to evacuate and clear the area of students and staff and police would handle the tactical and investigative issues.

Gold wondered why the state is asking to remove the policy from the manual.

“Calling in a bomb threat is a criminal act. I think it should be a part of school policy, and they’re removing it. Is that what you’re saying, Dr. Abreu?”

Abreu said the state is asking that a tactical response not be part of the policy manual.

“So what do we do with kids who do these type of criminal acts? Do they get away with it as far as the school is concerned?” Gold asked.

Abreu assured Gold that the school would still hold the student accountable, but that police would respond to a required search and investigation.

“This refers to a tactical emergency procedure. We would follow our procedures as normal, but it’s not an emergency tactical procedure that we have to deal with. We go to you guys (Gold and the police), we call you guys and you take over,” Abreu said.

He said some school districts spend too much time talking about it before they evacuate the building. “I think that’s the problem.”