Task force searching for solutions to school safety

Mar 1, 2018, 1:29 PM | Updated: 10:00 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – A task force has been created with the goal of enhancing student safety in Utah.

Members of the Utah School Safety Commission said they had their first of many closed-door meetings Thursday morning. The volunteer group hopes to gather information on the best ways to keep students safe and suggest action plans to lawmakers.

Rep. Mike Kennedy, R-District 27, who assembled the committee, said this is something they’d like to accomplish by the start of the next school year.

Rep. Kennedy selected the non-partisan members to represent a range of experts from a longtime teacher, a mental health expert, a school safety architect specialist to the chair of the Utah Shooting Sports Council (full list below).

Clark Aposhian, the Chairman of Utah Shooting Sports Council, hopes this works similarly and as successfully as Governor Herbert’s suicide task force which was assembled earlier this year. Aposhian said while they know they’ll be working with some folks who may not be pro-gun, he knows those he represents don’t want to be a “road block” to school safety.

“We have worked with these disparate, seemingly adversarial groups and in trust come up with some great ideas and hopefully a template that will be utilized across the nation,” said Aposhian.

Noticeably, there were some empty committee member seats. Organizers plan to have two high school students join their task force conversations. They hope to find students who are already invested in this issue. At this point, Rep. Kennedy does not know the best way to have the students reach out to them, but he hopes in the near future, the Utah School Safety Commission will have a website up and running. There the public will see commission’s updates and have the ability to send in ideas.

In the meantime, Representative Stephen Handy (R-District 16) presented a bill Thursday that would allow for extreme risk protection orders. He said five states already have laws which allow, with due process, protection orders for people in mental crisis, not necessarily just in a domestic situation.

“It’s another tool in the toolbox. It’s hopefully a piece of the puzzle that we’re all trying to figure out,” said Rep. Handy.

Members of the Utah School Safety (USS) Commission:

Terryl Warner, Member of the Utah State Board of Education

Clark Aposhian, Chairman of the Board of the Utah Shooting Sports Council

Dallas Earnshaw, Psychiatry Doctor at Wasatch Mental Health

John Hoffmann, Professor at Brigham Young University

Keith Squires, Commissioner for the Utah Department of Public Safety

Ron Gordon, General Counsel at the Office of the Governor, Utah

Bryan Turner, Director of Architectural Services at Davis School District

Heidi Matthews, President, Utah Education Association

Two High School Students (to be determined)

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