SAFE SCHOOLS

New Utah school safety law earns praise from victims’ families, but cost concerns persist

Apr 10, 2024, 4:29 PM | Updated: 9:08 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Family members who lost children in the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history came to Utah to celebrate a new law aimed at making schools safer.

Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson ceremonially signed HB84 into law during an event Wednesday at the University of Utah. The new law does a lot, including requiring access to panic buttons that teachers can press if there’s an emergency. It also requires schools to have some sort of armed guard inside.

Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson signing HB84 into law.

Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson ceremonially signing HB84 into law. (KSL TV)

Loved ones of school shooting victims told KSL TV they believe the law will make a difference.

But there are also concerns about how these changes will be paid for.

Pushing for safer schools

Max Schachter and Lori Alhadeff don’t live in Utah but found themselves in Salt Lake City on Wednesday morning because of their children.

Holding photos of their children, they remembered the ninth graders – Alex Schachter and Alyssa Alhadeff – who were killed in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018.

Max Schachter and Lori Alhadeff holding signs of the children they lost in the 2018 Parkland shooting.

Max Schachter and Lori Alhadeff holding signs of the children they lost in the 2018 Parkland shooting. (KSL TV)

“Alyssa was a soccer player,” Alyssa Alhadeff said, “vivacious, amazing, spunky girl.”

Max Schachter remembered his son’s love for marching band and basketball.

“He was just a little boy that loved Nutella crepes,” he said, “and he loved the band Chicago.”

Since that tragic day six years ago, Alyssa’s mom and Alex’s dad have been pushing for change. They’re happy Utah legislators passed HB84, which was recently signed into law.

“Most states don’t prioritize this issue until after a tragedy strikes,” Schachter said. “What Utah has done proactively means everything to protect schools.”

The bill sponsor, Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden, said the new law is designed to get Utah schools into better shape before a tragedy happens. He also defended the provision requiring armed guards inside schools, while noting that the law allows for exceptions on a case-by-case basis.

“You have to have somebody that can intervene sooner,” Wilcox said, “when you have these people – frankly evil – that are bent on murdering their classmates.”

Concerns with costs

Despite the praise for HB84, there are concerns about how schools will pay for all the new requirements it imposes on them.

Ben Horsley with Granite School District told KSL TV the “philosophy and the approach” in the law are “great,” but the Legislature didn’t appropriate enough money to cover everything – like paying ongoing salaries for armed guards or shoring up security at school buildings.

“Granite School District has 87 buildings, so all of those first-floor windows must be covered in ballistics glass film that starts about $25 a square foot,” Horsley said.

Ben Horsley, the Communications and Community Outreach Director for Granite School District, speaking about the new law.

Ben Horsley, the Chief of Staff for Granite School District, speaks about the new law. (KSL TV)

Horsley said if the Legislature doesn’t pony up more money, the school district may have to look at raising taxes.

“We’re just not sure how we’re going to be able to pay for a lot of these very, very good, very important things,” he said, adding he hopes for more guidance from the state soon.

But at the core, the families of school shooting victims believe this new Utah law will save lives.

“We couldn’t save our kids, but by passing this piece of legislation, schools are safer today than they were yesterday,” said Schachter, holding the photo of his son alongside Alhadeff. “We believe that this is their legacy.”

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New Utah school safety law earns praise from victims’ families, but cost concerns persist