Hoax threats underscore need for school safety measures

Dec 15, 2023, 5:37 PM | Updated: 5:43 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — There’s a big push from lawmakers to make sure Utah schools are prepared if a school threat becomes a reality.

Friday, another round of hoax threats swept through Utah after similar reports surfaced in Idaho and Wyoming.

Over the last year, lawmakers have been working on two main bills that they hope will aid in making schools safer – and deter hoax threats altogether.

One bill increases criminal penalties for hoax threats making them all second-degree felonies.

Another broad sweeping bill would put armed guards in schools and create a network of County Security Chiefs.

Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden, is the chair of the state’s School Safety Taskforce.

Wilcox said that much of what’s being proposed was because of what was learned in response to the hoax threats back at the end of March. On that day, 11 Utah schools received hoax threats.

“One of the things that we learned is that we needed to have better coordination with the counties and with districts across the state. We needed to have quicker communications and more reliable communications with them and we created the county security chief and the county sheriff’s office,” Wilcox said.

That network of 29 County Security Chiefs will oversee relaying accurate information in an emergency.

According to the proposal, the armed security personnel could be a uniformed school resource officer, a school safety and security officer hired by the school and provided by law enforcement, a contracted security guard, or a school employee. That school employee would need to have the required training.

The bill will also provide money for schools to update their security features.

“Things like the offshoot of ballistic glass on entrances, or you can put the film, … all of that is to slow down a worst-case scenario. And the same thing with the armed security — before the cavalry can arrive, they are there. But those seconds matter,” he said.

Wilcox wanted to remind the public that one of the best tools parents and students have to report threats is that Safe UT App.

He said that Utahns should not try to decipher themselves when the threat is real or fake.

“These are trained professionals who are licensed therapists [who run the SafeUT app]… who are answering those calls and they can help to determine that. I don’t need the rest of us to decide if that’s real or not.”

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Hoax threats underscore need for school safety measures