Utah State Board of Education votes to draft statewide school safety plan

Thursday , June 07, 2018 - 6:46 PM

The Utah State Board of Education voted Thursday to have its staff draft a statewide school safety plan, a first in the state.

The board approved the motion unanimously and is expected to approve the recommendations presented at a later time.

Terryl Warner, Utah State Board of Education District 1 representative, presented the board with a motion to create the safety plan. Warner is part of the Utah School Safety Commission, a group led by State Rep. Mike Kennedy, R-Alpine.

“I think it’s imperative in today’s times that we have a statewide school safety initiative,” Warner said. “We have the senate president, we have the Legislature, we have the governor and, yet, we are kind of lacking on one and perhaps we need to follow Indiana, Texas and a couple of other states, but do something that is best for Utah and establishing a school safety plan.”

The state has been exploring different ways to tackle the issue of safety in Utah schools. The Utah Safety Commission was created after the Feb. 14 Parkland, Florida, shooting. As part of the commission, Warner held town halls in Northern Utah during March and April to hear from the community. Gov. Gary Herbert has also asked schools to provide him with their safety protocols.

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Before the vote, board members discussed the different issues the statewide plan could address in terms of safety. Carol Lear, Utah State Board of Education District 7 representative, said she hopes the statewide plan addresses the issue of guns in schools and gun safety.

“One of the concerns is that everything is not on the table, nobody would talk about guns,” Lear said. “I think every element of this needs to be up for discussion and consideration … We can’t just pretend that that’s not an issue.”

Spencer Stokes, the District 2 representative on the Utah School Board of Education, said he believes the staff or the board of education can develop a list of recommendations that could be sent out to school districts for them to implement.

The school board, he said, could give the school districts a year for them to implement the recommendations.

“We spend a lot of time in this state doing audits in all kind of things, but many of them don’t really have any lives saving impact,” Stokes said. “We ought to do an audit of all LEAs (local education agencies) to find out how they have met and we ought to issue a complete report online so all parents in the state can see how the school districts met the safety needs as it applies to it.”

Contact education reporter Sergio Martínez-Beltrán at smartinezbeltran@standard.net or 801-625-4274. Follow him on Twitter @SergioMarBel and like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/STANDARDEXSergio.

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