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Utah school board calls for statewide school safety plan

The Utah State Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday to direct staff to develop a statewide school safety pla...

Posted: Jun. 8, 2018 5:57 PM
Updated: Jun. 8, 2018 5:57 PM

The Utah State Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday to direct staff to develop a statewide school safety plan.

The recommendations will come back to the 15-member board for its approval.

"This is one area where we can effectuate change and we should do it at all cost," said State School Board member Spencer Stokes.

Stokes said the board needs to go beyond developing a plan by releasing it to Utah schools and giving them a year to implement the recommendations.

"Then we ought to actually do an audit of all LEAs (local education agencies) to find out how they have met (the recommendations) … and we should issue a complete report online so all parents in the state can see how school districts met the safety needs as it applies to this," Stokes said.

Utah isn't meeting the emotional needs of students "because we can't afford enough school counselors. We know we're not meeting many other needs in the state for our children. This is something of the utmost importance," Stokes said.

At least with the statewide school safety plan, "they can count on their students being safe when they send them off to school," he said.

State School Board member Terryl Warner recently attended the Indiana school safety conference along with State Superintendent Sydnee Dickson and Deputy State Superintendent Patty Norman.

Indiana has developed state school safety guidelines and each school has a state school safety officer.

"I want to get away from the idea that school safety is only school shootings," Warner said prior to proposing that state education leaders develop a Utah school safety plan.

The umbrella of school safety includes child abuse, truancy, background checks, fire codes, reporting requirements and so on, she said.

Given Utah's penchant for local control, some board members questioned whether the plan should be top-down or fashioned by school districts and charter boards taking in mind their individual circumstances.

Dickson said she envisions something that is less "dictation" but more akin to a framework of resources.

Whatever the approach, Utah must not shy away from talking about guns in the context of school safety, said board member Carol Lear.

"We can't just pretend that's not an issue," she said.

While she agreed guns should be part of the conversation, board member Lisa Cummins said the drafters of the recommendations need to respect the Second Amendment.

"The Second Amendment is we shall not infringe upon the rights of ownership. As long as that is secure then let's talk about safety and let's talk about the proper handling of guns. I'm all for teaching the proper respect about guns," she said.

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