In the wake of school shootings, Utah’s Board of Education is creating a new safety policy

Posted at 3:54 PM, Jun 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-07 20:00:22-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Following school shootings nationwide, the Utah State Board of Education has begun crafting a comprehensive, statewide safety policy.

The board voted unanimously on Thursday to begin drafting the policy, which would be a first for the state.

"What we have are pieces and parcels of it. What we don’t have is a system-wide, comprehensive plan," said Sydnee Dickson, the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

A view from SkyFOX of some of the March for Our Lives at the Utah State Capitol on March 24, 2018.

Right now, Utah has no such policy. Any lockdown drills are handled by individual schools or districts on their own.

"Are there some things we can address statewide around mental health of our students? Also, thinking about drills. We have fire drill requirements but we don’t have other drills that are probably better for this day and time," Dickson told FOX 13.

Utah State Board of Education member Terryl Warner has been serving on a task force created by the governor and legislature following the Parkland, Fla., school shooting. She outlined some ideas for the board on Thursday that ranged from bullying and violence prevention, to mental health services. She noted other states who have school safety officers that aren't focused on just crime, but other needs that students may have.

"Overwhelmingly, people do not want teachers to be forced to carry guns. If a teacher wants to carry a gun, people felt that was OK," she said of a survey conducted on the topic. "But overwhelmingly, there was a support to not make teachers do that."

Students stage a walkout on March 14 in support of gun law reforms and in solidarity with victims of the Parkland, Fla., shooting.

But some board members felt not enough discussion was taking place on the topic of firearms.

"We can’t just pretend that’s not an issue," said board member Carol Lear.

Board member Lisa Cummins said she was fine with discussing gun safety -- with limits.

"But 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 the proper handling of guns," she said.

Board chairman Mark Huntsman pointed out it was "a start place, not the end place." The policy may also be broader than just school shootings, but also cover natural disasters and other safety issues.