Nevada School Shooting Draws Fresh Focus on Bullying, Harassment

By Andrew Ujifusa — October 22, 2013 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A new law requiring Nevada school districts to track incidents of bullying and harrassment may get fresh attention after a student opened fire at a middle school in Sparks, Nev. on Oct. 21, killing a teacher and wounding two other students.

The student, still not identified, killed teacher Michael Landsberry before taking his own life at the middle school, the Associated Press reported. Landsberry, was reportedly attempting to shield other students when he was shot dead. The motive was still under investigation as of Tuesday, but if there were to be a bullying or harrassment connection, a state law enacted this year would require the Washoe County district, which oversees the school in question, to track and report such incidents.

The shooting took place at Sparks Middle School, on the outskirts of Reno, and occurred right after the students had returned from a fall vacation, according to the AP. the name of the two students who were wounded haven’t been released. Those students, one of whom was shot in the shoulder and the other in the abdomen, were reportedly in stable condition Monday evening. It’s not clear yet how the student got the gun. Landsberry is being hailed for his actions to protect his students from harm.

The police response involved more than 150 officers, and students were evacuated from the school, which will remain closed for the rest of the week. The AP report doesn’t incicate if there was a school resource officer or any other armed law enforcement presence at Sparks Middle School at the time of the shooting. Reportedly, the shooting began inside the school, but the incident ended outside a school building.

The deaths in Sparks are a sad reminder of the deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. last December, when 20 students and six faculty were shot dead by gunman Adam Lanza before he also took his own life, as well as the numerous other incidents over the years involving guns, schools, and death. Over the past year, state legislators around the country introduced a flood of bills in response to the Newtown shootings as school safety became a prominent policy issue.

In Nevada, legislators introduced a total of six bills dealing with school safety in a variety of ways. Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, approved one of these bills that requires school boards to report statistics related to bullying, cyber-bullying, and harassment, and requires each school to hold an annual assembly about bullying. The law went into effect July 1. (All the other proposals, including those dealing with school resource officers and guns on school property, didn’t make it out of the legislature.) It’s still unknown if the shooting in Sparks was triggered by bullying or any other form of harassment. But if there were such a link, and the Washoe County district knew about it, then the district should have some form of information about it.

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.