The doors in new schools are a challenge.
If they have large windows, it could prevent sexual assault in a classroom and allows law enforcement to see in. But, large windows also eliminate the ability to hide from an intruder. There’s pros and cons to large windows vs. no windows from a hallway into a classroom, and schools aren’t sure which side to pick.
“I as a school district representative are caught in the middle,” Provo City School District Superintendent Keith Rittel said during a school safety summit Monday afternoon.
He asked for a standardized approach to the windows on doors issue, which has the potential to be one result from the summit held at Edgemont Elementary School in Provo and hosted by U.S. Rep. John Curtis.
The summit was intended to gather ideas about school safety and look at what is already being done locally.
Curtis said the topic of school safety has taken up a quarter to half of the time he’s spent in town hall meetings over the past two months. He said he is looking at ideas that will make a difference while being in harmony with the Second Amendment.
Edgemont Elementary School, which was completed in the fall, was an example of safety features that could be implemented in new schools. After the bell rings each morning, all of the school’s exterior doors but the front doors are locked on the outside and visitors must go to the front door, which funnels them straight to the main office, in order to enter the school.
Rittel said the district does active shooter drills and has recently done an internal audit to see if exterior doors at schools were locked and if visitors without a badge would be stopped in the halls. The testers weren’t stopped or asked questions in more than half of the schools they entered.
Statewide, the SafeUT app is helping improve school safety, according to Rep. Steve Eliason, a member of the Utah legislature.
The SafeUT Crisis Text and Tip Line app allows students to send in tips about potential attacks on schools and bully, among other features.
Eliason said about 75 percent of Utah schools have implemented the app and there is interest in making it available nationwide.
He said the app’s crisis chat has connected more than 10,000 students with licensed clinical social workers this school year and the app has received 104 tips about school attacks. One of those tips led to a student being found with two loaded handguns in his backpack.
“We never heard anything about this publicly because the threat was addressed and neutralized,” he said.
Greg Hudnall, the founder and executive director of HOPE4UTAH spoke on his belief that youth suicide will be fixed locally. HOPE4UTAH runs the HOPE Squad program, which are teams of students in schools who are trained to look for students who may be contemplating suicide and refer the students to an adult.
“Our mantra is while it takes an entire village to raise a child, it takes an entire community to save one and it’s all hands on deck,” Hudnall said.