Nelson: Student safety to be brought to the legislative table

Senator Telena Nelson (PNC file photo)

Guam – Although a long standing priority for the Guam Department of Education, concerns of school safety will be formally addressed at a roundtable meeting scheduled by Oversight Chairwoman Vice Speaker Telena Nelson next week.

Perhaps prompted by several incidents that occurred late last year at various GDOE campuses, the most prominent of which became the threat made at Oceanview Middle School in last December.

The verbal threat made by a student of the Agat campus and the disciplinary actions taken by school administrators instigated a protest by parents, students and other members of the community, against the student’s return to Oceanview.

In response to the incident GDOE administrators and the Guam Board of Education, worked with various community stakeholders in revisiting the school’s safety plan. In addition, GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez ordered the protections of School Resource Officers at the gates of the Agat campus, a move that went opposed by several parents.

As a hot topic that community stakeholders took through the end of last year and into this new year, the issue of student, faculty and staff safety throughout all 41 public schools will be discussed on the legislative table. The roundtable meeting will consist of 4 committees, one of which is Chaired by the Vice Speaker.

Legislative committees involved are as follows:

  • Committee on Education, Air Transportation and Statistics, Research and Planning – Chairperson Vice Speaker Telena Nelson
  • Committee on Higher Education and the Advancement of Women, Youth and Senior Citizens – Chairperson Senator Amanda Shelton
  • Committee on Public Accountability, Human Resources and the Guam Buildup – Chairperson Speaker Tina Muna Barnes
  • Committee on Public Safety, Border Safety, Military and Veterans Affairs, Mayors Council, Infrastructure and Public Transit – Chairperson Senator Jose ‘Pedo’ Terlalje

If you recall, the Oceanview incident is not the only one of its kind that occurred within the last few months on GDOE campuses.

In late November a 16 year old student was taken into the custody of the Department of Youth Affairs, after his BB gun shot a whole through a Department of Public Works school bus that was transporting students to Southern High School. As the reports go, a loud pop was heard by students coming from inside the bus, while passing the San Isidro Church in Malojloj, along Route 4. The minor was eventually charged with criminal mischief to government property, terrorizing, crimes against the community and reckless conduct.

The month prior, a shelters-in-place was initiated at Lius P. Untalan Middle School after two bullets were discovered in the school’s gymnasium. Within several minutes the shelters-in-place was lifted and the “all clear” was given.

However, an even more recent threat the school safety was unfortunately manifested by 31 year old John Daniel Nego earlier this year. According to court documents, Nego called Benavente Middle School several times demanding to speak with one of the teachers who worked there, the same individual he was ordered to stay away from, by form of court order. When told that the teacher was not at the school Nego reportedly threatened to burn the school down.

Later that same day, Nego reportedly called Finegayan Elementary School asking to speak to the same teacher from BMS, only to be told that she wasn’t there either. Nego then responded “you better watch your school I am going to blow it up.”

In relation to the two incidents, Nego was charged with 2 counts of terroristic conduct in the 3rd degree and 2 counts of attempted violation of a court order as a misdemeanor, this according to court documents.

The roundtable meeting among each respective legislative committee has been scheduled for next Friday, February 8th 2019 at 3 pm, to be held at the Guam Congress Building’s public hearing room.