UTAH COUNTY, Utah — In just a few weeks, some Utah County teachers will go through training from the Utah County Sheriff’s Office with a goal to prepare for school shooting situations. While this was planned well before the events in Texas, Sheriff Mike Smith says he hopes this class can help teachers in Utah County stop such threats.
"You know this is about people, it's not about an object - it's about people,” Sheriff Smith said. “Active shooters and school safety has always been something that in my career has been an issue.”
Utah County has seen a few active incidents, including one in Orem where several students were injured by a student with a knife.
There have also been several false alarms in recent years but the Sheriff’s department is not taking any of them lightly.
“It became obvious to me that this level of training was just not happening for teachers and there are teachers out there who want it,” Smith explained.
The department decided in 2019 specialized training was a must.
Included in the 20-hour course is an overview of critical skills needed in an active shooter incident and a briefing in lessons learned from active shooter incidents around the world.
“The teachers that are taking it, the feedback has all been 100% positive,” the Sheriff said. “Most of those like myself that instruct in this we do it after hours and we donate our time to it.”
In Utah, teachers are allowed to carry a gun in a classroom for defense purposes. This law has been met with criticism and Sheriff Smith explained the class has also faced criticism from outsiders.
“They have a right to not be a victim,” Smith said. “They have a right to be prepared they have a right to want to protect our children.”
The course also discusses strategies in the event of an active shooter situation.
“We teach mindfulness in this class we teach de-escalation in this class we teach teachers how to how to notice a problem how to pay attention to their students and notice when something's off,” Smith said.
Smith estimates that it would take law enforcement around three minutes to respond initially with waves of officers coming from further.
“In that three minutes before we can get somebody to you, what are you going to do… have a plan,” Smith said.
As the nation recovers from the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, here in Utah the goal of this unique training is to make sure teachers are prepared.
“This is why we do this this is why this class is important to me this Teachers Academy,” Smith said. “Let's fight back, let's make a difference, let's take this seriously.”
This year's teachers academy is coming up in only a few weeks but there already is a waitlist which Smith says they are adding people to every day.
Because of the overwhelming demand for a class like this, he is hoping to expand it in the future and take as many teachers as possible.