The Official News Publication of Herriman High School

The Herriman Telegraph

The Official News Publication of Herriman High School

The Herriman Telegraph

Back to School Checklist — unpacking the new school safety bills with Herriman High.

Image of the Thurston shooting memorial, 1998, Oregon. Several floral wreaths are displayed alongside the school grounds. Image Credits: United State’s Attorney’s Office, District of Minnesota (Wikimedia Commons).

HERRIMAN — At 2:45 PM on August 22nd, the PA system at Herriman High School sounded an announcement all too familiar to high school students, yet something they wish never to encounter. It was the second day back to school, and Herriman High was on lock-out. Luckily, the suspicious activity reported in the area was unsubstantial. The lock-out was lifted shortly after. But, with school shootings breaking news daily, it is essential to understand the state standards for school safety proposed in this legislative session.

“I guess I was nervous. Like, ‘Okay, this is real, something could actually happen.’ I was carrying out regular conversations with my teacher about schools and grades, but it was like something weird was happening in the background,” explained Emily Reinoso, a Herriman High senior, who was present during the lock-out. “‘Students and teachers. Students and teachers,’ they said that a couple of times,” she added. With a significant uptick in school shooting victims in 2022, there is a renewed interest in school safety within the Utah legislative session

“I think it’s really a bummer that when we talk about school safety it usually doesn’t mean having a good nurse or getting out of the parking lot alright. Instead, it means preventing an armed attack. I think it’s really uncomfortable [sic] and I wish that we were more direct with how we talked about it sometimes,” explained Brooks Udy, another senior at Herriman High, who remained in the student parking lot during the lock-out.

John Vincent, the assistant principal and the supervisor of safety drills, explained that the school initially responded to the threat with a lock-out but eventually initiated a lockdown to ensure maximum safety. “Somebody had said, ‘Well we heard [gunshots] over by the apartments.’ But then there was uncertainty about the location. So we initiated a lockdown,” said Vincent.

Currently, there are annual trainings for the administrative teams and staff. They are trained for all types of emergencies, including lockouts and lockdowns. The school resource officers receive training from their respective police departments, but there is also blended training between school staff and law enforcement. The school safety committee also meets yearly. “It includes some teachers and myself…we talk about improvements to school safety,” elaborated Vincent. He also explained that the new legislative bills will have more impact statewide. 

HB 61 passed in the legislative session this year. It took effect on May 3rd, 2023, and created a State Security Chief within the Department of Public Safety. Additionally, it enforces minimum safety requirements for schools, such as a firearm detection software. In fact, the Utah School Security Task Force met recently at the capitol to discuss short and long-term safety goals. “[Firearm detection] is new. I think in the fractured world that we live in…that we will get to a point where there may be metal or firearm detectors in schools,” said Vincent.

“It would feel safer I guess, having a task force. Right now, there’s only a resource officer who can actually do something about it. So [sic] I guess it would be good to have more people on it,” said Reinoso. HB-304, which also went into effect on May 3rd, 2023, delegating more power to school resource officers while also proposing juvenile justice revisions. The bill proposes a reintegration program for students involved in crimes committed on or off school campuses and a district-alert system for such incidences. 

“If a school safety task force was just a division of law enforcement I could hope that it would be successful. Law enforcement in other places such as Ulvade stood idle during times of crisis, even with top-of-the-line equipment. So, the answer isn’t a more militaristic police but one that has the moxie to go into schools durings times of crisis and address the situation effectively,” Udy explained. 

While HB-61 aims to detect firearms early through safety software, HB-107, another school safety bill passed this session, waives the weapons permit fee for teachers to carry concealed weapons to school. “I’m firmly of the opinion that a good guy with a gun doesn’t stop gun violence. It just puts more guns in the world,” said Udy. 

“As a school official, I don’t encourage students or adults to carry weapons to school. I know that Utah [permits] adults to carry concealed weapons in school…[in theory] if they’re concealed nobody would know about them anyway. So, my comments on that are somewhat moot,” explained Vincent. 

With many different safety bills approved for the 2024 school year and beyond, the student body might notice slight changes to district and school policies. However, with most of these bills functioning at a state level, the modifications to safety procedures, which trickle down to schools, might go unnoticeable. That said, with these bills in place, students can expect more systematic safety procedures.

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Bhavika Malik
Bhavika Malik, Editor and Chief

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