SANDY — An idea to have teachers who want to carry guns to school undergo some level of police training will be left up to local school districts and police departments.

The Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training Council did not take action on the proposal, which was brought to Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff by a constituent in the Nebo School District.

"They're still going to be teachers, but they're going to carry a weapon," Shurtleff told the POST Council on Wednesday, adding that the idea would be "that they be allowed to have some training."

The training would put the teachers in the category of "special function officer," much like a school district security officer, a hospital security officer, a constable or a port of entry agent.

Utah state law already allows people with concealed-weapons permits to carry guns on school grounds. School districts across the state have different policies about where those guns can be kept, banning them from being stored in places like desks or coat closets.

Members of the POST Council seemed divided on the idea.

"If you should have an armed confrontation and our officers have to go in or our SWAT teams have to go in," South Ogden Police Chief Val Shupe said, "some guy could pull a gun who's a teacher — they don't know that and we're going to have a problem there."

Shupe said the Utah Chiefs of Police Association has already stated its opposition to the training idea.

"They feel like the security of the schools ought to be left to the professionals and not teachers who are part-time cops," he said.

Questions were also raised about who would pay for the training, if the teacher answers to the school district or a police department and who would be liable for a gun-carrying school employee.

San Juan County Sheriff Mike Lacy said in rural areas, districts can't afford school resource officers. He supports the idea.

"We've got many miles where a police officer may not get there for a half-hour or 45 minutes," Lacy said. "It's just something that makes sense. I think it's critical they have something."

Lacy said that as a concealed weapons instructor, he has personally taught 15 school teachers in his area who now have concealed-weapons permits.

"I'm looking at the safety of the kids more than anything else, and that's the bottom line," he said.

Many school districts contacted by the Deseret Morning News on Wednesday were cool to the idea.

"Having any employee in the Granite School District systematically undergo special function officer training is not currently under consideration in the district," Granite School District spokesman Randy Ripplinger said Wednesday. The Granite School District has its own police force.

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Like many other districts, the Jordan School District says its policy allows employees with concealed weapons permits to bring their guns to class. However, they are acting alone.

"Any use of such weapons is outside the scope of employment, is contrary to the purposes of employment by the District and is done solely in the employee's personal capacity, not as an employee of the District," the policy states.

The Utah Education Association, the state's largest teachers union, opposes the idea of arming school employees.

In October, a West Valley City firearms instructor began offering free classes to school teachers seeking a concealed weapons permit. Clark Aposhian told the Deseret Morning News at the time that several dozen school employees had contacted him about signing up.


E-mail: bwinslow@desnews.com