ST. GEORGE – In the wake of recent school violence events like Sandy Hook, representatives from local law enforcement agencies and school districts focused this month’s community meeting on keeping kids safe at school.
Although currently the issue draws more attention, St. George Police Chief Marlon Stratton reminded the citizens, including parents and students, in attendance that police presence in Washington County schools is not a recent development. Policemen have been involved with area schools for years, providing general security, gang investigation, and conflict resolution; and instructing to prevent theft, assault, hazing, violence and other crimes.
“We all have a responsibility to prevent those horrible events from even happening, and there are a lot of things we need to think about,” Chief Stratton said. “We understand in law enforcement we can’t do this job alone. We need your help, and you need our help.”
Speakers at the meeting focused on creating secure resources for high school students that inform officials of illegal activity that has occurred, as well as potential crimes. These resources include the implementation of school resource officers who help bridge the communication gap; educating parents on the violent media accessible to their children; and creating a secure environment at schools.
Craig Hammer, the executive director of secondary schools, also addressed the audience:
“You’re hard pressed to find a place in the state of Utah where the city and the school district have a better relationship than we do,” Hammer said. “When we started the program they just wore golf shirts that said St. George P.D., they didn’t even wear a gun on their hip, and it made the officers the good guys.”
The safety committee also shared some of the limelight at the meeting. Hammer pointed out that it is more than just a few people meeting out of habit or obligation, but that it is a proactive group that includes local law enforcement, fire departments, Intermountain Healthcare Southwest Region’s Dixie Regional Medical Center, mental health professionals, traffic engineers, principals from county schools, maintenance workers, parents and other local people who help maintain the safety in area schools and community.
As the plan progresses, implementation will include a sustained enforcement of the requirement of all school visitors to sign-in at the front desk on their way in; tip lines to which students can text anonymous tips; zero tolerance of bullying or violent acts; monitoring of student social media use; random K-9 searches; and other programs designed to keep public schools safe.
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