SALT LAKE CITY (News4Utah) — The Salt Lake City School District is rolling out new safety measures for back to school.
“We really try and have school be that safe place for everyone,” said Mike Harman, an education specialist and counselor at Salt Lake City Schools.
Harman says school should be a safe and welcoming place both physically and emotionally.
When it comes to physical safety, the district strives to:
- monitor entrances and exits for external security
- address mental health for internal security
- practice safety drills
- maintain strict check-ins throughout the day
“I think it helps create that sense of safety by having more secure entrances and exits that we know who is coming in and out of our buildings,” said Harman.
When it comes to emotional and mental safety, the district strives to:
- create a safe space for open communication
- train teachers to monitor student’s social interactions
- encourage parents and guardians to be actively engaged with schools
- teach children interpersonal skills
“There are supports in place not only with educators but with counselors, psychologists, social workers to help within that school environment to create a caring culture,” said Harman. “So the kids care about each other (and see) that we are kind to one another.”
This school year, the district installed security cameras at the entrances of every middle and elementary schools.
In order to get inside, visitors will have to ring a doorbell with a camera attached. When they do so, they will alert staff immediately.
The district is also arming staff with DIR-S, an app that helps them manage emergencies and quickly communicate with local law enforcement.
“We’ve gone through protocols within all schools about lockdown procedures,” said Harman. “We actually have lockdown drills now. We didn’t used to do that. We have drills for staying inside, drills for going outside.”
Harman says kids can text any concerns anonymously at any time on an app called SafeUT.
“Most schools have a zero tolerance for bullying,” said Harman. “We know it happens. It happens through social media. We will deal with that school if they’re impacting the learning environment.”
“I think it’s a good start,” said Elizabeth Love, a recent West Valley High School graduate. “I think that focusing on mental health specifically is very important and what they’re doing to try to curb bullying is important.”
Love is also the co-founder of March for Our Lives Salt Lake City. She says there is only so much schools can do.
“I think a part of it is a system around guns that is broken,” said Love. “We want people to have guns and to have their second amendment rights, but there are also things we can do to prevent criminals and people who are unstable from obtaining guns.”
Love says the federal government needs to step up and tackle mental health and gun laws across America.
Love specifically wants to see:
- Universal background checks for potential gun owners
- A mandatory waiting period
- A ban on the sale of assault weapons
Love also supports the No Notoriety Campaign.
“I think one we can do is ask our media to stop using the shooter’s name and face because it encourages copy cats attacks and keeps perpetuating these types of violent attacks,” said Love.
Harman agrees that school safety is a community effort; he encourages everyone to help out.
“Seeing their parents helping in the classroom helps them understand too that school is important, but it creates that safety feeling when you see mom down the hall once a week,” said Harman.
The district constantly reviews its policy and trains its staff. Since security cameras can’t catch everything and new initiatives can’t guarantee success, the district encourages students and parents to speak up if they see something suspicious.