Sandy Hook 8 years later: What have Utah schools done to address safety?

Local News
Mark Barden, Natalie Barden

In this Dec. 3, 2019, photo, Mark Barden and his daughter Natalie Barden hold a photograph of Natalie’s late brother, Daniel, at their home in Newtown, Conn. Daniel died in the Dec. 14, 2012, Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that killed 20 first graders and six educators. Natalie, 17, is among Newtown students who have grown up to become young voices in the gun violence prevention movement. (AP Photo/Dave Collins)

(ABC4) — Eight years ago Monday, a shooter entered Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 20 first-graders and six educators in one of the worst school shootings in United States history.

This tragic event has shaped schools across the nation, prompting the safety measures that are in place today.

ABC4 spoke to Mark Peterson, Public Relations Director of the Utah State Board of Education, about some of the safety initiatives that Utah schools have recently adopted.

In 2019, the Utah State Legislature passed House Bill 120: Student and School Safety Assessment.

The passing of the bill created several organizations aimed at keeping Utah schools safe. These organizations include the Utah State Board of Education School Safety Center, a group of professionals from the Utah State Board of Education, the Utah Department of Public Safety, the Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, and the University of Utah SafeUT, according to the board’s website.

One free resource that has come of the bill is the SafeUT Crisis Chat and Tip Line.

SafeUT is an app that allows students to connect with counselors at the University of Utah Hospital all day every day, Peterson said.

According to the board’s website, the app allows students, parents, and educators to message mental health professionals. They can also send in anonymous tips to school administrators about any threats or potentially unsafe situations.

SafeUT app lets students report anonymous tips_20160121021000

According to a Secret Service Study conducted in 2019, many students who committed deadly attacks in schools showed concerning behavior that was never reported.

“These are not sudden, impulsive acts where a student suddenly gets disgruntled,” Lina Alathari, the head of the Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center, told the Associated Press. “The majority of these incidents are preventable.”

In addition, Peterson said that many individual districts have implemented either locked door policies or only provide single entrances to prevent individuals from entering schools who shouldn’t be there.

Utah schools also participate in active shooter drills to prepare students to know how to act in case this situation occurs.

For more information on resources to keep Utah schools safe, visit schools.utah.gov.

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