LAS VEGAS (FOX5) — Reported incidents of on-campus violence by students sent shockwaves through the Clark County School District last week.
A disturbing act of a girl repeatedly hitting another girl’s head with her fist has been caught on camera and widely shared online. But leading Valley experts say it’s a much bigger problem than these recent high-profile incidents.
A county official said Wednesday that they are currently seeing acts of youth violence that are more aggressive in nature than in previous years.
FOX5 first told you about this disturbing trend on Monday, when Brigid Duffy, chief of the Juvenile Division of the Clark County District Attorney’s Office, said they were seeing an increase in violence on campus at the start of the school year.
“What we’re seeing is that the intensity of these acts of violence have increased,” Duffy said. “The aggression is much more intense than we have seen in the past.”
She said assessments by staff in their office show that these crimes most often result from untreated mental illness.
“There’s an element of mental health to the abuser,” Duffy said. “So we’re definitely seeing a crisis within our state around children’s mental health. … You can see that anger, that lack of empathy, like everything that’s just come out. And that’s different than what we have seen in the past.”
After Monday’s story aired, the district attorney’s office was inundated with messages, according to Duffy, from people who were concerned and demanding more transparency.
Duffy said pandemic-related trauma is also a factor in this crisis.
How is justice rendered to the victims of violence, and intervention with the young aggressor?
Regarding the Feb. 2 video showing an attack in a Las Vegas high school classroom, SDCC Police Sgt. Bryan Zink said the striker now faces a misdemeanor battery charge but said it could be improved once he knows the extent of the victims’ injuries, as reported by the AP .
Duffy confirmed this process.
“When this victim sees a doctor and we get information that there’s been a concussion, or potentially a broken nose that wasn’t obvious, those are all examples of things that have gone through the system before, then at this point we take that misdemeanor and then would charge felony, substantial bodily harm,” Duffy said.
She explained how the sentencing process works. “At this point, it could be anything from probation to placement in a youth correctional facility, much like Spring Mountain Youth Camp, Caliente, Summit View, so it all depends,” Duffy said. “And the courts make that ultimate decision.”
Duffy added that the DA’s office is in a position to argue for a harsher sentence, but again: it’s ultimately up to the court to decide.
“It often depends on…how many times we’ve seen this juvenile in our system before,” Duffy said.
Duffy said the DA’s office provides free mental health services to victims of violent youth crimes.
“Wrapping our child victims in trauma services and getting them counseling as soon as possible will help us deal with this mental health crisis that we have in our state,” Duffy said.
Experts also said it’s important to educate yourself on how to recognize the warning signs that someone may have mental health issues. Some emotional signs include persistent sadness, drastic mood swings, withdrawal from friends and family, outbursts, or extreme irritability.
Some physical signs include weight loss, frequent headaches or stomachaches, and poor performance, as if their grades are dropping.
The county also operates several port locations, which would provide a “safe place for orientation”, particularly for children and adolescents, with free comprehensive mental health services. They also provide counseling, truancy prevention, mentoring, tutoring and more.