search
Sections List
American Journal News

Not if, but when: Parents of slain Parkland students urge Utah lawmakers to pass school safety bill

The parents of children killed in the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting have a stark warning for Utah lawmakers: “It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when and where the next school shooting will happen.”

By Kyle Dunphey, Utah News Dispatch - February 21, 2024
Share
Semi-automatic guns are displayed for sale at Capitol City Arms Supply, Jan. 16, 2013, in Springfield, Ill.
Semi-automatic guns are displayed for sale at Capitol City Arms Supply, Jan. 16, 2013, in Springfield, Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

The parents of children killed in the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting have a stark warning for Utah lawmakers: “It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when and where the next school shooting will happen.” 

That was the message from Max Schachter, the father of Alex Schachter who was one of the 17 victims murdered in Parkland, Florida in 2018. On Tuesday, he stood alongside Utah lawmakers, law enforcement and education officials urging the passage of a sweeping school safety bill that would mandate threat reporting, require classrooms to have panic alert devices and secure entrances, and create a guardian program to arm and train some school employees. 

“We were complacent in our state. We never thought it would happen in our community. But it can and it does,” said Schachter. 

At over 2,000 lines long and sponsored by Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden, HB84 would create a set of uniform, minimum standards for all Utah schools to adhere to. Among the bill’s provisions are: 

  • Emergency communication systems in schools, including panic buttons and video camera access. 
  • A new set of training standards for school resource officers.
  • A school guardian program, where school employees are trained to carry a firearm and respond to an active shooting. 
  • Mandatory threat reporting for school employees. 

The bill is a culmination of months of work from Utah’s School Security Task Force, which includes lawmakers, law enforcement officials and educators. Wilcox even toured Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School which he said “sits like a time capsule.” 

Wilcox’s bill includes “Alyssa’s Law,” legislation now passed in a number of states mandating silent panic alarms in classrooms that are directly linked to law enforcement. The bill’s name comes from Alyssa Alhadeff, a student at Marjory Stoneman killed in her English class. 

Her mother, Lori Alhadeff, spoke Tuesday during the news conference, where she referred to her daughter as “the heartbeat of our family.”  

“We want to see Alyssa’s Law passed here in Utah as a standard level of safety protection in every school, so that when there’s a medical emergency or active shooter situation, a teacher can push a button and it’s directly linked to law enforcement,” Alhadeff said. 

One of the more controversial parts of the bill is the armed guardian program. Modeled after initiatives in Texas and Florida, guardians would be armed school employees who are trained by law enforcement and activated in an emergency. “Otherwise, nobody knows they are there,” Wilcox said on the House floor last week. 

“It’s about the gap time,” Wilcox said. “Even in a best-case scenario, you’re talking 15 minutes” for a police response. 

The bill will require approval from a Senate committee before being considered by the entire Senate. It passed the House after a 50-16 vote, with funding proving to be a sticking point for some lawmakers. 

HB84 could cost Local Education Agencies almost $20 million each year, according to the bill’s fiscal note — implementing the early warning software alone could cost the State Board of Education over $2 million annually. 

“My concern is not that we need to provide a safe environment. We do. My concern is we can only do that as fast as we have funds,” said Rep. Susan Pulsipher, R-South Jordan. 

Pulsipher was one of the “no” votes, telling the House the bill will burden the weighted pupil unit, or WPU, the per-pupil rate used to calculate how much money each school should receive. 

After the news conference on Tuesday, Sen. Don Ipsom, R-St. George, said the Senate is going to work to fund the various programs the bill will enact. But where that money will come from is still “in flux,” he said. 

“We can’t send it out to small districts without some help, so we’re trying to figure that out,” he said. 

The ‘fire marshal’ of school safety 

Assuming the bill passes, Matt Pennington, Utah’s new state security chief under the Department of Public Safety, will be tasked with its rollout. About a month into the job, Pennington on Tuesday said getting law enforcement, teachers, administrators and parents on the same page is proving to be a big lift. 

“You have 41 school districts, you have 1,300 physical locations and everybody is doing what they think is best. And not to say what they’re doing is wrong, it’s just not standardized,” Pennington said.

Comparing the position to the state fire marshal, Pennington will be working on site and building safety assessments, model policies, emergency operation plans, training and drills. The hope is to create a uniform set of policies across the state.   

“It doesn’t matter if they move from Logan to St. George, it’s going to be a familiar concept, familiar terminology. The drills are going to be the same. That’s the hope,” Pennington said. 

The department will also oversee the training curriculum for school guardians, while compiling a database to track who enrolls in the program. 

This story was originally published in the Utah News Dispatch


Read More
13 states with Republican governors opt out of summer food program for kids

13 states with Republican governors opt out of summer food program for kids

By Robbie Sequeira, Stateline - June 27, 2024
In Grand Rapids, DeVos declines to say whether she’ll endorse Trump

In Grand Rapids, DeVos declines to say whether she’ll endorse Trump

By Kyle Davidson, Michigan Advance - June 18, 2024
Parents sue Florida Board of Education over book ban policy

Parents sue Florida Board of Education over book ban policy

By Mitch Perry, Florida Phoenix - June 06, 2024
NH federal court strikes down ‘banned concepts’ teaching law

NH federal court strikes down ‘banned concepts’ teaching law

By Ethan DeWitt, New Hampshire Bulletin - May 28, 2024
Ohio Dems lay out education bills to increase funding, target private vouchers and student hunger

Ohio Dems lay out education bills to increase funding, target private vouchers and student hunger

By Susan Tebben, Ohio Capital Journal - May 28, 2024
Alaska House committee advances, expands proposal to bar trans girls from girls sports

Alaska House committee advances, expands proposal to bar trans girls from girls sports

By Claire Stremple, Alaska Beacon - April 16, 2024
AJ News
Latest
Big investors are buying up single-family homes. Sen. Sherrod Brown has a plan to stop them.

Big investors are buying up single-family homes. Sen. Sherrod Brown has a plan to stop them.

By Jesse Valentine - July 09, 2024
New Mexico Senate nom Nella Domenici earned up to $1 million renting out Connecticut home

New Mexico Senate nom Nella Domenici earned up to $1 million renting out Connecticut home

By Jesse Valentine - July 08, 2024
GOP’s Mark Robinson blames bad fathers for social ills despite own son’s criminal record

GOP’s Mark Robinson blames bad fathers for social ills despite own son’s criminal record

By Jesse Valentine - July 03, 2024
Kelly Ayotte’s history of backing Medicare cuts could be hurdle in governor’s race

Kelly Ayotte’s history of backing Medicare cuts could be hurdle in governor’s race

By Jesse Valentine - July 02, 2024
Texas Republican Ken Paxton enlisted outside group to gut rights for pregnant workers

Texas Republican Ken Paxton enlisted outside group to gut rights for pregnant workers

By Jesse Valentine - June 24, 2024
Ted Cruz leverages Trump conviction on podcast for own personal gain

Ted Cruz leverages Trump conviction on podcast for own personal gain

By Jesse Valentine - June 11, 2024
Arizona Republican Kari Lake proposes massive cuts to Medicaid and Medicare

Arizona Republican Kari Lake proposes massive cuts to Medicaid and Medicare

By Jesse Valentine - June 10, 2024
Virginia U.S. Senate candidate Hung Cao says workplace diversity is ‘Marxism’

Virginia U.S. Senate candidate Hung Cao says workplace diversity is ‘Marxism’

By Jesse Valentine - June 06, 2024
Republican Bernie Moreno’s rags-to-riches story exposed as a lie

Republican Bernie Moreno’s rags-to-riches story exposed as a lie

By Jesse Valentine - May 24, 2024
What happens to clinics after a state bans abortion? They fight to survive.

What happens to clinics after a state bans abortion? They fight to survive.

By Chabeli Carrazana and Shefali Luthra - May 22, 2024
Former Sen. Kelly Ayotte took job at Caterpillar after tax fraud probe

Former Sen. Kelly Ayotte took job at Caterpillar after tax fraud probe

By Jesse Valentine - May 21, 2024
Alabama OB-GYN residencies dropped over 20% after Dobbs, state abortion ban, says analysis

Alabama OB-GYN residencies dropped over 20% after Dobbs, state abortion ban, says analysis

By Alander Rocha, Alabama Reflector - May 21, 2024
House GOP celebrates National Police Week while pushing to defund local law enforcement

House GOP celebrates National Police Week while pushing to defund local law enforcement

By Jesse Valentine - May 16, 2024
Evolution denier Mark Robinson could reshape North Carolina’s education system

Evolution denier Mark Robinson could reshape North Carolina’s education system

By Jesse Valentine - May 16, 2024
Republican Jay Ashcroft backs anti-abortion clinics that push lies and disinformation

Republican Jay Ashcroft backs anti-abortion clinics that push lies and disinformation

By Jesse Valentine - May 14, 2024
Republican Sam Brown’s assault on teacher unions could backfire

Republican Sam Brown’s assault on teacher unions could backfire

By Jesse Valentine - May 09, 2024
Florida abortion ban puts GOP Rep. Anna Paulina Luna’s anti-choice views in spotlight

Florida abortion ban puts GOP Rep. Anna Paulina Luna’s anti-choice views in spotlight

By Jesse Valentine - May 07, 2024
Trump leaves door open to banning medication abortion nationwide

Trump leaves door open to banning medication abortion nationwide

By Jennifer Shutt, States Newsroom - April 30, 2024
Republican Caroleene Dobson wants Alabama abortion ban to go nationwide

Republican Caroleene Dobson wants Alabama abortion ban to go nationwide

By Jesse Valentine - April 30, 2024
Ohio Gov. DeWine said he didn’t know of millions in FirstEnergy support. Is it plausible?

Ohio Gov. DeWine said he didn’t know of millions in FirstEnergy support. Is it plausible?

By Marty Schladen, Ohio Capital Journal - April 29, 2024
GOP Rep. Zach Nunn suggests laws against hate crime aren’t needed

GOP Rep. Zach Nunn suggests laws against hate crime aren’t needed

By Jesse Valentine - April 15, 2024
GOP Senate candidate Hung Cao blames racial equity for Baltimore bridge tragedy

GOP Senate candidate Hung Cao blames racial equity for Baltimore bridge tragedy

By Jesse Valentine - March 29, 2024
GOP Rep. Jennifer Kiggans donates thousands to far-right extremists

GOP Rep. Jennifer Kiggans donates thousands to far-right extremists

By Jesse Valentine - March 08, 2024
Ohio senate candidate Bernie Moreno: “Absolute pro-life no exceptions.”

Ohio senate candidate Bernie Moreno: “Absolute pro-life no exceptions.”

By Jesse Valentine - March 07, 2024
Anti-China Republicans pocket thousands from Chinese owned conglomerate

Anti-China Republicans pocket thousands from Chinese owned conglomerate

By Jesse Valentine - March 04, 2024
Republican Eric Hovde makes inconsistent statements about family history

Republican Eric Hovde makes inconsistent statements about family history

By Jesse Valentine - February 26, 2024
Republican David McCormick invests millions in website that platforms Holocaust denial

Republican David McCormick invests millions in website that platforms Holocaust denial

By Jesse Valentine - February 09, 2024
Lawmakers will again take up bills expanding, tightening gun laws

Lawmakers will again take up bills expanding, tightening gun laws

By Annmarie Timmins, New Hampshire Bulletin - January 31, 2024
UAW delivers rousing presidential endorsement for Biden over ‘scab’ Trump

UAW delivers rousing presidential endorsement for Biden over ‘scab’ Trump

By Ashley Murray, States Newsroom - January 24, 2024
Republicans Sam Brown and Jeff Gunter sling mud in Nevada senate primary

Republicans Sam Brown and Jeff Gunter sling mud in Nevada senate primary

By Jesse Valentine - January 17, 2024
A Young Texas Woman Almost Died Due To The Texas Abortion Bans – Now She’s Battling To Save Other Women

A Young Texas Woman Almost Died Due To The Texas Abortion Bans – Now She’s Battling To Save Other Women

By Bonnie Fuller - January 10, 2024
Health care legislation preview: Maryland advocates want to focus on access, patients in 2024 session

Health care legislation preview: Maryland advocates want to focus on access, patients in 2024 session

By Danielle J. Brown, Maryland Matters - January 08, 2024
How GOP senate hopefuls try to excuse the  January 6 insurrection

How GOP senate hopefuls try to excuse the  January 6 insurrection

By Jesse Valentine - January 05, 2024
NH lawmakers will be taking up major voting bills this year. Here are some to watch for.

NH lawmakers will be taking up major voting bills this year. Here are some to watch for.

By Ethan DeWitt, New Hampshire Bulletin - January 04, 2024
Republican US Senate candidates want to make Trump’s tax cuts permanent 

Republican US Senate candidates want to make Trump’s tax cuts permanent 

By Jesse Valentine - December 22, 2023
Rand Paul went all in on the Kentucky governor’s race. It didn’t work.

Rand Paul went all in on the Kentucky governor’s race. It didn’t work.

By - December 15, 2023
Texas governor and attorney general do little to curb state’s chemical plant crisis

Texas governor and attorney general do little to curb state’s chemical plant crisis

By Jesse Valentine - December 08, 2023
Likely GOP Senate candidate Eric Hovde proposed tax hike for poorer workers and retirees

Likely GOP Senate candidate Eric Hovde proposed tax hike for poorer workers and retirees

By Jesse Valentine - December 07, 2023
Whitmer signs specific criminal penalties for assaulting health care workers into law

Whitmer signs specific criminal penalties for assaulting health care workers into law

By Anna Liz Nichols, Michigan Advance - December 06, 2023
105 Republicans voted to expel Santos for things Trump has also done

105 Republicans voted to expel Santos for things Trump has also done

By Jesse Valentine - December 05, 2023
For Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, another Trump term is another chance to kill Obamacare

For Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, another Trump term is another chance to kill Obamacare

By Jesse Valentine - December 04, 2023
Florida Sen. Rick Scott backs Donald Trump in revived push to repeal Obamacare

Florida Sen. Rick Scott backs Donald Trump in revived push to repeal Obamacare

By Jesse Valentine - November 30, 2023
Tate Reeves took donations from power company that hiked customer rates

Tate Reeves took donations from power company that hiked customer rates

By Jesse Valentine - November 06, 2023
Daniel Cameron ran on depoliticizing the Kentucky AG’s office. He made it more political.

Daniel Cameron ran on depoliticizing the Kentucky AG’s office. He made it more political.

By Jesse Valentine - November 03, 2023
Republican operatives sound every alarm on current trajectory of 2023 governor’s race

Republican operatives sound every alarm on current trajectory of 2023 governor’s race

By Adam Ganucheau, Mississippi Today - October 24, 2023
FactCheck: Republican Sheehy revives discredited abortion claim in Senate race

FactCheck: Republican Sheehy revives discredited abortion claim in Senate race

By Matt Volz - July 15, 2024
Lawsuit seeks to overturn Michigan’s ban on conversion therapy for minors

Lawsuit seeks to overturn Michigan’s ban on conversion therapy for minors

By Jon King, Michigan Advance - July 15, 2024
Virginia Republican Jen Kiggans backs effort to stop voting rights expansion

Virginia Republican Jen Kiggans backs effort to stop voting rights expansion

By Jesse Valentine - July 12, 2024
Republican Eric Hovde poured millions into dubious overseas ventures

Republican Eric Hovde poured millions into dubious overseas ventures

By Jesse Valentine - July 12, 2024
 Republican Monique DeSpain boasts about out-of-state support

 Republican Monique DeSpain boasts about out-of-state support

By Jesse Valentine - July 11, 2024
U.S. House candidate Rob Bresnahan donated thousands to controversial, far-right figures

U.S. House candidate Rob Bresnahan donated thousands to controversial, far-right figures

By Jesse Valentine - July 11, 2024