Stroder: School safety ‘ahead of the ballgame’
Commission reports to state lawmakers

Grand County School District is “ahead of the ballgame” in terms of safety measures, according to Superintendent JT Stroder. His comments came in response to new recommendations for legislators made by the Utah Safe Schools Commission.

Safety is “our highest priority,” Stroder told The Times-Independent. Improvements are being made on campuses throughout the district to help ensure students feel safe and secure. “We’re redesigning the entrance to the high school and the tech center,” Stroder said, describing how the changes would make it easier to monitor visitors entering the buildings. “We put doors on electronic lockdown timing, so they’re only open at certain times. We’ve been upgrading our camera system district-wide this past year,” Stroder explained. In regard to the controversial arming of teachers, Stroder said, “We haven’t really broached much yet into arming teachers. I know the Safe Schools Commission is wanting some folks to take a look at that, but we’re just not there yet.”

In addition to preventive measures, Stroder also noted, “We have some active shooter trainings scheduled this summer with the police department and local law enforcement.”

On Wednesday, June 20, the ad hoc Utah Safe Schools Commission suggested lawmakers pass a bill that allows weapons to be seized through court order. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that “current law allows for confiscation of weapons if a specific threat is made against specific people. But the law falls short in situations where a gun owner is believed to be a danger to the general public.” The Tribune quoted the commission’s facilitator, Rep. Ray Ward, R-Bountiful, who said, “We have a gap if a person is making general threats against the community as a whole.”

The report issued by the Utah Safe Schools Commission contains three tiers of steps to protect students. The top tier, ideas with “strong consensus among the commission as well as a sentiment that there would be strong community support,” includes the adoption of gun violence restraining orders that would allow family members or law enforcement officers to petition a court to have a person’s access to firearms restricted, development of school threat-assessment teams, and the improvement of Utah’s mental-health reporting for federal background check databases.

The second tier is broken into two groups. The first group of ideas received support from a majority of the commission and left some members neutral. Group two contains ideas that were supported by the majority but were also actively opposed by some members. Suggestions in group one include an emergency alert app, trauma informed practices with an increase in school-based behavioral health funding, and strengthening safe gun storage code. The second group includes waiting periods to obtain firearms and universal background checks.

Tier three is comprised of “ideas that the commission discussed but did not reach majority support for new state action.” The report states, “In some cases, these may be good ideas that are already in the process of being implemented.” The third tier includes suggestions to coordinate additional school shooting awareness response and lockdown training, create stricter controls on campus access and support “hope squads” that focus on suicide prevention.

According to the Tribune, “The commission included Clark Aposhian, a gun-rights advocate and chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council; Dallas Earnshaw, superintendent of the Utah State Hospital; Brigham Young University sociology professor John Hoffmann; Keith Squires, commissioner for the Utah Department of Public Safety; Bryan Turner, an architect with Davis School District; Utah Education Association President Heidi Matthews; and Terryl Warner, a member of the Utah Board of Education. Two student members, Elizabeth Love and Isaac Reese, also joined the commission.”

The school safety panel lacks the authority to launch legislation or appropriate funding. Now, lawmakers must decide whether to implement the commission’s suggestions. Gov. Gary Herbert’s spokesman Paul Edwards said he is grateful for the efforts of the commission to identify common-sense measures that state leaders can consider. “Governor Herbert is in the process of reviewing the measures proposed by the commission,” Edwards said. “If the two legislative bodies are able to reach consensus, the governor would consider calling a special session.”

ByBy Nathaniel Smith

The Times-Independent