Principal Tam Larnerd knows he is the first line of defense for his more than 2,300 students at Spring Valley.
Despite pushback from superiors and common folk, Larnerd is an activist, being vocal on issues that affect school safety, health and the wellbeing of students.
“The things I’m advocating for are providing a safe campus for, not just students, but the 160 employees I have,” Larnerd said. “It’s my job as principal to make sure everyone gets home safe after a long day at school.”
Despite controversy in promotion, many teachers support Larnerd’s activism and the encouragement he gives students to be activist.
“It [school shootings] really gave me pause and made me realize that this movement needs support,” US Government teacher Sandra Thornton said. “Larnerd’s way of handling the march walked the line perfectly.”
The current battle for school safety follows a national debate on gun control and safety in schools. Larnerd, however, wants to avoid the politics of the debate, instead focusing on protecting the school, its students and staff.
“I’m not protesting — it is student led, but the things I advocate for both as a parent and concerned citizen is providing the resources schools need in order to provide a safe campus,” Larnerd said. “It’s my duty to do everything I can to make sure when they come to work that I know I’ve exhausted all of my resources to make sure that you are safe.”
Larnerd most recently showed his activist roots by taking to social media and inviting students to take place in the “Lap for Life,” a protest held across thousands of schools in the nation. He invited students to take part through Remind, a social media platform used by schools to communicate with students.
“Grizzlies: let’s coordinate the Grizzly Empire’s ‘March For Our Lives’ efforts on March 14. School and workplace safety is a VERY big deal.” Larnerd said on Remind.
On the day of the event, more than 600 students participated in the protest, Larnerd said. At 10 a.m., students walked out of class and marched around campus for 17 minutes to honor the 17 lives lost in the Parkland, Florida shooting on February 14. But Larnerd’s fight for gun safety in schools is one of many battles he’s willingly taken on in order to make the school a safer place. Larnerd has also spoken publicly against the asphalt pit across the street from Spring Valley, which has sparked controversy over its impact on school air quality.
Last year, Wells Cargo sent a bid to the county to expand its operations. The area surrounding Wells Cargo’s asphalt plant is experiencing air pollution two times higher than the federal standard according to the Clark County School District’s Environmental
Services. At only 208 feet away from the plant, students on campus are directly exposed to
the unclean air.
“I’m not going to just nod my head and say ‘yes sir,’ ‘no sir,’” Larnerd said. “I expect them to listen to the concerns of 2,350 students and the thousands of people who live within a mile of that plant.”
According to Larnerd, school safety will always be his number one priority. In light of recent events, Larnerd hopes to pass changes toward the school safety budget and emphasize the importance school safety holds to legislators.
“It [school safety] is primary,” Larnerd said. “If students don’t feel safe, how are they going to learn? It’s above even the right to shelter, food, air, and water.”
Larnerd hopes to work with regional administrators to give each high school a minimum of two police officers, and to take into consideration changing the schools infrastructure.
“There are 50 doors and entries from which a person could come into our school,” he said. “In elementary schools, for example, if you want to get in you have to sign into the front office. We need to limit weak spots like that.”
With so many issues, Larnerd hopes to see a multi faceted solution by state legislators. He’s optimistic, with the governor’s support on increased school safety and other measures to solve the issue. Teachers and students also hope to make a change.
“I think they’ll know when they need to participate in activism,” Thornton said.
Like many other activists, Larnerd said he started in his youth and was inspired by family.
“It’s always been something instilled upon me,” Larnerd said. “My mom’s always talked about people like Rosa Parks, MLK and protests like women working towards voting rights. It’s something I grew up with.”
Today, Larnerd hopes to instill that same will he was given to students. He hopes that schools can become a safer place for students and that events like those in Parkland become a thing of the past.