SALT LAKE CITY — After reviewing the membership of the School Safety Advisory Committee, members of a state school board committee Friday noted a need for the voices of students, parents and front-line school employees such as teachers, school secretaries or bus drivers.
Committee members includes members of the state school board, the charter school board, the state superintendent or designee and representatives of public safety, health and human services agencies, the governor's office, and lawmakers among others.
State school board members were ask to consider codifying the membership of the committee in state school board policy.
Board member Alisa Ellis said she has concerns about the voting members of the committee, noting "we have a lot of representation from organizations but the general populace, none at all or no student representatives," let alone parents or teachers.
There are working groups to advise the voting committee, but the school board committee's debate focused on whether front-line school employees, educators, even students should be voting members, too.
Ellis acknowledged there are already 16 people on the committee and adding to its ranks could complicate its work.
Board member Carol Lear agreed that the committee needs the perspective of people who work daily in schools and with students.
"I need more worker bees on this. These are all the queen bees," said Lear.
While the membership of the committee can address school safety from a big gear perspective, Lear said there is a need for the voices of people who deal with school safety issues on the front lines.
There is a need for committee members who could say, "Let me tell you how that really works," Lear said.
Schools deal with a wide array of threats and intrusions, she said.
Recently, a parent who was involved in an automobile accident in a school parking lot entered a school and confronted the student in a classroom.
"Despite all our talk and all our good intentions, I hope the local board will say 'Golly, we can still do better,'" Lear said.
Ellis also took issue with the language of the proposal that says its meetings would not be subject to the state Open and Public Meetings Act.
"Without having open meetings, its concerning that they take something to the Legislature and all of a sudden we have a bill that pushes down mandates across the state," she said
Deputy State Superintendent Patty Norman said the thinking was that the committee would be discussing school's security measures, which committee members do not want to disclose publicly.
"Even with the idea there are security devices that might be discussed, I still think an open meeting is going to be a better approach then the people who would like to attend could attend," Lear said.Comment on this story
Terry Shoemaker, executive director of the Utah School Superintendents Association, cautioned against expanding the committee membership because the group is just starting to get acquainted and "I can tell you right now, it's a pretty dang large group," he said.
The group was assembled at the recommendation of lawmakers, who want all agencies and associations that are seeking funding and policy changes for safety initiatives to approach the Legislature with a single, cohesive proposal, Shoemaker said.