Alpine and Provo City School Districts install security cameras

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    By CATHERINE BROWN

    Alpine and Provo City School Districts and the Utah Parent Teacher Association are taking steps to reduce the amount of violence and guns in Utah schools.

    Alpine School District has installed security cameras in its high schools to help officials spot trouble in all areas, including gun control.

    Vern Henshaw, assistant superintendent of secondary schools at Alpine School District, said the security cameras will increase the surveillance on campuses and awareness in the community and schools.

    “It increases the safety of the school. It’s a part, but not a cure-all in any way, shape or form. We have problem with vandalism and crime, and we hope it will decrease because of the surveillance,” Henshaw said.

    According to Henshaw, the cameras were installed to increase awareness. Any time you increase awareness, it heightens sensitivity and anxiety, which deters possible crime, he said.

    Henshaw said he does not think Alpine School District has a big problem with guns in the school.

    “But any time you have one, it’s a problem. It’s always a danger,” he said.

    Governor Leavitt established a statewide hotline last spring where students can anonymously report weapons or suspicious behavior by classmates. Provo City School District also has its own weapons hotline that is separate from the statewide hotline.

    Donna Nelson at Provo City School District said students, parents or any member of the community can call the hotline to report anything seen or heard about weapons in schools.

    “To my knowledge there has not been much of a problem with guns in schools in the Provo School District. This is proactive work,” she said.

    According to Nelson, the hotline has been connected for a month, and there have been no messages yet. But school has only been in session since Aug. 23, she said.

    “Many students do not know about the hotline yet, but they’re handing out flyers and cards in school,” Nelson said.

    The Utah Parent Teacher Association hopes to pass legislation banning guns from Utah schools. The PTA plans to start collecting signatures this month to get the proposal on the November 2000 general election ballot.

    According to statewide PTA president Colleen Taylor, this initiative would ban all firearms in schools, churches, hospitals and on college campuses except for weapons carried by law officers.

    This action by the PTA comes at a time when Utah’s gun safety in schools is in question. Utah gun laws earned a “D” in the six areas the Handgun Control Inc., the nation’s largest citizens’ gun control lobbying group, consider mandatory to protecting students from gun violence.

    Utah received a “D” because it does not have laws that regulate gun storage and secondary sales. Utah also does not allow cities and counties to enact ordinances to prevent gun violence.

    According to the report, Utah also allows concealed weapons to be carried almost anywhere, including schools. More than 29,000 people in Utah are licensed to carry concealed weapons.

    Governor Mike Leavitt attempted to push the issue in a special fall 1999 legislative session, but the legislators thwarted this effort.

    Sen. Michael Waddops said Utah legislators have already dealt with gun control. Adopting Handgun Control’s suggestions will not necessarily make schools more secure, he said.

    “We’ve addressed our issues and proactively decided that the current statute is what our citizens want,” Waddops said.

    According to Waddops, although people are upset about the deaths in Columbine, no one really knows what could have been done to have prevented or stopped it.

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