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Davis Journal

Lawmakers introduce legislation aimed at increasing school safety

Feb 09, 2023 01:04PM ● By Becky Ginos

Visitors must be buzzed in and show ID to be allowed into Woods Cross High School. Bills on school safety are making their way through the legislature. Photo by Roger V. Tuttle

SALT LAKE CITY—School safety is always top of mind as more and more tragedies occur across the nation. Here at home, lawmakers are running legislation to address the growing problem. Reps. Cheryl Acton, Ryan D. Wilcox, Dan Johnson and Davis County representatives Karen Peterson and Karianne Lisonbee held a press conference at the Capitol last week to introduce their bills.

“In the wake of the tragedies we had a number of constituents reach out about the school system,” said Wilcox. “We’ve partnered with the DPS (Division of Public Safety) and school security experts. With our combined efforts over the last 10 months we’ve worked together to determine what school safety looks like.”

Acton is sponsoring HB60 Juvenile Justice Modifications. “It makes it mandatory for schools to report to law enforcement when a student brings a weapon to school,” she said. “That would be reported to the CCJJ, principal and LEAs to determine the scope of the problem we face.”

HB140 Standard Response Protocol to Active Threats in Schools calls for emergency response drills to be conducted on a regular basis and developmentally appropriate for students. “This is a huge issue,” said Johnson, who is sponsoring the bill. “The code requires school active threat drills to be held frequently but the language you use with a 5-year-old is different than with a high school student.”

Johnson is also running School Absentee Amendments that address the high absenteeism rate in Utah. “In 2019, 19 percent of students were chronically absent and in 2021-2022 36 percent of kindergarteners were chronically absent and missed 10 percent or more days in the school year. We need to reach out and engage with parents to solve the problem.”

Wilcox is sponsoring HB61 School Safety Requirements that establishes a School Security Task Force that primarily ensures the design, training and safety features of schools. “There is an unequal response,” said Wilcox. “Some take this very seriously and are as prepared as they can be. Other schools are dramatically unprepared. We need to raise the standard. Safety should not depend on where you live.”

HB249 Education Related Information Amendments creates an online tool for parents looking for resources to help their child. “This would be a parent portal where they can find out what their options are if their child is being bullied or marginalized in some way,” said Peterson who is sponsoring the bill. “Maybe they can change schedules or go in and out a different entrance. Faculty and personnel policies are the community piece to surround a student with caring adults.”