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Utah lawmakers gives final passage to pared-down school safety bill

By Marjorie Cortez, KSL | Posted - Mar 14th, 2019 @ 7:09am

SALT LAKE CITY — The sixth version of a bill intended to improve school safety in Utah won final passage in the Utah House of Representatives on Wednesday.

HB120 directs the State School Board to develop safety protocols, offer training to schools and hire one expert from law enforcement and another from behavioral health to work on school safety initiatives.

The legislation was developed in the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting that killed 17 people in 2018. In the succeeding months, an ad hoc commission and State School Board task force were formed to study the issue and develop policy recommendations. Student demonstrations, school walkouts and marches were held across the country and in Utah.

The bill that reached final passage was significantly pared down from the introduced version, which called for threat-assessment teams at schools, a secure digital tool to provide "resources and protocols for school safety," and a $100 million appropriations request for school personnel and school building modifications or equipment to enhance safety. All of that was dropped from the final bill, which was will be funded at $780,000.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Ray Ward, R-Bountiful, agreed to multiple changes in the bill over concerns that students could be profiled by threat-assessment teams and that the bill established unfunded mandates.

Ward said remaining language represents a consensus bill that is "a very important step forward for school safety and I concur with the changes."

Marjorie Cortez

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