Utah Parents Against Gun Violence urges citizens to take personal responsibility for establishing and maintaining safe schools for our children. Positive change happens when individuals like you decide our children's security is worth your time and effort. Whether you are a parent, teacher, or other interested community member, there are steps you can initiate to prevent gun violence and, if a violent event should arise, lessen the damage an attacker can inflict. All stakeholders must take these threats seriously: the next Sandy Hook or Columbine attackers may be targeting your school.
How can we make our schools safe from gun violence?
The following is a sequence of actions you and your community can take to achieve school security. More specific details are available through organizations on our Resources page.
Step # 1 Assemble a School Safety Team
Invite key participants to discuss potential threats to school safety and the need to assess the soundness of current plans to prevent and deal with emergencies that include gun violence. This team should include school administration (the principal) and individuals like counselors, teachers, school staff, parents, students and law enforcement. Encourage participation from the PTA, School Community Council, UEA representatives, and student body officers.
Step #2 Assess the Threats
Determine how conducive the school climate is toward violence prevention, and what can be improved. Survey students about their attitude toward school as a safe place. Ask counselors and administrators for information on potential problems such as bullying and at-risk behaviors including alcohol and drug use, gangs, and weapons violations.
Use maps of the school facility and grounds to survey potential weak points where armed attackers might gain entry and have access to students and school personnel. Invite first-responders on a walking tour of the building and grounds to help with the assessment.
Utah law allows for concealed carry in schools, and unfortunately students do bring guns to school. [For statistics, please see our Guns in Utah Schools page.] Consider the possibility that a teacher or student could be a shooter, or threatening other students or staff. What is deterring students from bringing guns to school? What are the rules about firearms and are they communicated clearly to both staff and students?
Step #3 Conduct a School Safety Audit
Conduct and audit of existing policies, plans and procedures. Have school administration distribute copies of applicable district policies and the school's crisis management plans to each member of the School Safety Team. Use a checklist to review the documents for the following:
- Clear, comprehensive objectives and procedures for violence prevention, crisis planning, and post-crisis recovery
- A chain of command that networks to all parts of the school, including first responders and parents
- Well-defined roles and thorough instruction and training for administrators, teachers, counselors, staff, students, law enforcement, parents, and community leaders
- School design features and security enhancements that diminish opportunities for violence: security cameras, locks on doors which school staff have the ability to control, etc.
Step #4 Revise Policies, Plans and Procedures As Needed
Solicit recommendations for improvements from the School Safety Team members. Develop a plan, timeline and specific responsibilities for achieving needed improvements. If additional resources are needed, seek support from community and legislative funding sources.
Step #5 Train and Drill Key Participants
All sectors of the school and community should be informed of the school safety system and provided multiple opportunities to practice that include active shooter simulation drills.
Step #6 Monitor Readiness
The School Safety Team is a permanent fixture of the school security system. It should meet regularly and issue updates throughout the school year.