SALT LAKE CITY — During the Utah Education Association break last week, some teachers and others working within schools took a free concealed weapons class.
After hearing that some teachers took the class, some parents wondered if they could see a list of schools where teachers are armed.
By state law, Utah teachers are allowed to bring guns onto schools grounds, and districts are not allowed to ask who has a permit.
Granite School District spokesman Ben Horsley said he regularly gets questions about guns in the classroom, usually from out-of-state media.
"Probably a call a month saying, 'Do you really allow concealed weapons permit holders on campus?" Horsley said.
Most recently he fielded that question from CNN and the New York Times, both within the past month. He said he often gets questions about guns on school grounds after a school shooting, like the one in Oregon last month. Horsley tells them it's not the district's decision.
"We assume and presume that a number of our teachers actually do carry weapons under conceal-carry permits," he said.
But the districts do not know because the districts do not ask. While some parents want to know, public school districts in Utah do not have that kind of information.
"The state office has indicated that, frankly, under the interpretation of the law, we can't ask," said Horsley. The State Office of Education confirmed: districts are not allowed to ask teachers whether they have a concealed weapons permit and whether they are carrying a weapon.
A year ago, a teacher at Westbrook Elementary School in Taylorsville accidentally fired her gun in a staff bathroom and blew up a toilet.
"We had people on both sides of the issue coming at us saying, 'I want my kid in that class,' and a number of parents saying, 'I don't want my kid in that class,'" Horsley said.
In most Utah districts, the firearm cannot be concealed in district property, like a desk or a locker; it must be concealed on the teacher at all times.
In the Jordan School District, the policy is spelled out this way:
"District property may not be used to hide, cover or secret of firearm. A lawfully concealed firearm must be within the employee's immediate control at all times. Employees must recognize that students could gain access to a firearm that is not properly concealed or controlled."
In the Granite School District, Horsley said, the policy is identical in that respect.
"We don't want to be in a situation where a student is breaking into a teacher's desk, going through a closet and happens to come across that weapon, intentionally or unintentionally, and accidentally discharges that or causes a safety issue."
The Granite School District tells parents who do not like that policy, or would like to amend it further, to contact their state representatives.