by Becky GINOS
BOUNTIFUL—From gun control to mental illness students had the opportunity to speak their minds about issues they face in an open forum last week with local lawmakers and school board members.
Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross hosted the meeting as a follow-up discussion to the walkout held in March at high schools across the state to bring awareness to school safety.
“If a gun control act does come across how would you vote?” asked one student. “It’s terrifying to walk into school and think ‘am I going to die here?’”
“I support background checks,” said Becky Edwards, R-North Salt Lake. “Both layers of government need to act and move forward to find a way to do that and protect the Second Amendment.”
“The Second Amendment is important to me and our country,” added Ray Ward, R-Bountiful. “We need to find ways to make things better.”
It increases the fear to have drills, continued the student. “What can administration and teachers do to help assure us we’re safe?”
“They’re doing everything they can to keep you safe,” said Davis School Board President John Robison. “The big part they’re doing is if something happens we have a plan. That’s exactly what happened at Mueller Park – they acted quickly.”
“We share that fear,” said Weiler. “I remember the shooting at Trolley Square and the Triad Center. There are no metal detectors at the Capitol and I wonder all the time if I’m safe because I am pretty vocal and I’m making laws that can cause controversy. But I don’t think we want our buildings all locked down with security.”
Other students expressed concern about hardening targets. “I’ve heard about arming teachers, giving them gas masks and vests,” said one young woman. “I don’t promote hardening schools. That’s not the way to do it. It should be about education.”
A girl who was at Mueller Park Junior High when the shooting occurred said she’s seen the tactics for what to do as a reaction to violence but wanted to know what preventative measures could be taken. “I haven’t seen things put into place in order to stop them,” she said. “You can’t rely on friends or peers to determine someone’s mental state. We need trained professionals to help recognize students in crisis.”
“We could all do better as a society in reaching out to those kids with mental health issues or who feel like outcasts,” Weiler said.
“You being here and all the other young people here tells me you’re concerned,” said Robison. “Davis School District is the poster child for mental illness counseling but we’re far from doing as much as we could.”
A student body officer at Viewmont said their walkout was an opportunity for students to make it whatever it meant to them. “We took an individual approach,” he said. “Too often we get stuck on policies and miss the big issue of looking at us as individuals and taking responsibility for ourselves and our safety. We should be making sure we’re safe individuals and being good people.”
Another teen told the panel she had a teacher say it’s every man for himself in an emergency.
“I’d like to meet that teacher and have a discussion,” said Robison. “But we’ve witnessed in the media a lot of teachers who put their life on the line. We’d never tell our teachers they have to sacrifice their life but you are in the hands of people who care about you. We will do all that we can to address the concerns you have brought to us.”
“You are the generation of change,” said State School Board Member Laura Belnap. “You can make that change. Make it. Keep talking – keep moving.”