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Utah ed leaders seek school safety assurances

Published January 10, 2013 3:31 pm

Education • Districts and charter schools are asked to confirm their compliance by July 1.
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Amid news of another school shooting in California on Thursday, Utah's top education official is asking school leaders here to ensure they're fully following all safety policies.

State Superintendent Martell Menlove sent a memo to all district superintendents and charter school leaders Thursday asking that they certify before July 1 to the state school board that they are following rules and laws concerning school safety.

"In light of recent incidents, we need to be ever more diligent in our efforts, and I need to assure that the Utah Code and State Board Rules are implemented with fidelity," Menlove wrote.

Among other things, school districts should ensure they have emergency response plans in place, have trained staff, are conducting drills and have reviewed existing security measures at each school.

Menlove said he believes schools are already following the rules and laws but may not be documenting it. He said certification from districts and charters will provide extra assurance.

Debra Roberts, state school board chair, called the memo a "timely reminder of things that already ought to be happening."

Though Menlove acknowledged that school shootings can happen anywhere, he said if Utah schools follow all the current safety measures, "I think we're in pretty good shape as far as school safety is concerned."

The fact that Utah teachers, with concealed-weapons permits, are allowed to carry concealed weapons could be helpful, he noted.

"People knowing that if I go into a school I may confront a principal that has a weapon, I may confront a teacher, that may be an additional deterrent," Menlove said.

The memo follows a massacre at a school in Newtown, Conn., last month where a gunman killed 20 children and six adults. Also, on Thursday, at least two were injured in a school shooting in California.

Since the Newtown shootings, there's been much debate about whether educators should be armed, with proponents saying it could deter school violence and opponents saying educators aren't trained to carry weapons and that's not their role.