Letters: Utah lawmakers must take multi-pronged approach to school safety
February 20, 2019
Answer the Call to Action
Working for a nonprofit providing mediation and restorative justice services to residents of Summit and Wasatch Counties, I pay particular attention to proposed legislation that may affect our clients and community. This session, H.B. 120 has caught my eye. Titled "Student and School Safety Assessment," the bill arose in the aftermath of the horrific Parkland shootings that took place last year. The laudable goal of the bill is to provide a safer school environment. The bill, as currently drafted, addresses the issue of school safety primarily from the standpoint of identifying and assessing threatening behavior. This represents only one prong of the three-pronged approach recommended in the Call for Action to Prevent Gun Violence in the United States of America. The Call to Action was developed by the Interdisciplinary Group on Preventing School and Community Violence and has been endorsed by many national organizations, including the American Psychological Association and the National PTA.
The Call to Action calls for three levels of prevention: (1) approaches for assessing school climate and maintaining physically and emotionally safe conditions and positive school environments that protect all students and adults from bullying, discrimination, harassment and assault; (2) a reform of school discipline to reduce exclusionary practices and foster positive social, behavioral, emotional and academic success for students; and (3) a program to train and maintain school- and community-based threat assessment teams.
With an overhaul of the juvenile justice system (H.B. 239, 2016GS) and a House Resolution encouraging public schools to use restorative justice practices (H.R. 1, 2017GS), the Utah Legislature has taken initial steps regarding the first two prongs of the Call to Action. Including restorative practices provisions within H.B. 120 to build positive school environments and reform school discipline as outlined in the first two prongs of the Call to Action appears to be a logical next step.
Safe schools are not optional. While "threat assessment teams" may have become a necessary part of our vocabulary, we can't leave behind the critical community building work within our schools and in our community.
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Mountain Mediation Center executive director
The piece about a driver who was ticketed for going 62 mph in a 25 mph zone was a jaw-dropper. The article said, often, the police reduce the mph on the ticket. Why? In some states, such as Arizona, going 30 mph over the speed limit is a felony. If the mph amount is routinely lessened, I now see why these black vans and town cars zoom past the entrance to my home. The driver was also cited for not having a driver's license in his/her possession. This driver should be in jail.
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