SALT LAKE CITY — Utah schools are not participants in a national initiative that teaches educators to stem blood loss in the event of mass casualty incidents but state health regulations require that at least two employees at each Utah school have current basic first aid and CPR certification.
Likely, the Utah rule was written contemplating a school employee experiencing cardiac arrest or to address the occasional skinned knee on the playground, said Terry Shoemaker, executive director of the Utah School Superintendents Association.
"It's helpful but may not be nearly sufficient in certain circumstances," Shoemaker said.
In the aftermath of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School attack that killed 26 children and adults, a Hartford, Connecticut, surgeon who operated on the victims pushed for a teacher triage program.
Since then,"Stop the Bleed" has trained about 125,000 teachers, counselors and administrators across the country how to stem blood loss. A growing number of schools stock classrooms with supplies such as tourniquets, gauze coated with blood-clotting drugs and compression bandages.
Utah school superintendents recently discussed the Stop the Bleed initiative and others as part of a larger and ongoing conversation on school safety, Shoemaker said.
"It's going to continue for some time as we work through more strategies on how to deal with these things," he said.
Beyond what is required under state health codes, CPR certification is required of all high school and most middle school/junior high coaches, according to the Utah State Board of Education.
Health, physical education and driver education teachers must be certified in first aid and CPR to obtain a Utah teaching licenses, but after that, it is up to their employers to monitor whether their certification is current.
"There are people trained in every school for first aid, but again, are there enough?" Shoemaker said. "That's really a problem here. In the event of one of these types of event, you need many people trained."
Heidi Matthews, president of the Utah Education Association, said there is "no quick fix" to keeping schools safe.
"We have a lot of opportunities to prevent violence in our schools. To focus on first aid that comes after violence has already occurred is short-sighted direction. I think we need to be proactive," she said.
Schools need to focus on mental health issues and providing "wrap-around services so all of our students have what they need to be successful and engaged in schools," she said.
It's largely a resource issue, she said. When more professionals work in schools, educators have more opportunities to get to know their students and students become more connected with their teachers and school communities.Comment on this story
Matthews said she hopes voters will consider schools' many needs when they answer a nonbinding opinion question this November asking Utahns if they would support raising gas taxes by 10 cents a gallon to provide more money for schools and local roads.
Gas taxes won't increase unless the 2019 Legislature takes action, but if voters express a preference for the fuel tax hike, it will send a strong message about their priorities, she said.
"It all comes back to the resources and supports we have available to make sure our students are in safe schools with highly trained and effective adults," Matthews said.