State education leaders gave preliminary approval Friday to a rule that makes it clear schools are allowed to teach gun safety to students.
The rule was created after a lawmaker discussed running a bill earlier this year to require such instruction in hope of helping children avoid accidental shootings. Schools are already allowed to teach students what to do if they see a gun, and the rule just makes that clearer.
"We thought we could just take care of this, and it wouldn't be a huge issue," said Janet Cannon, a state Board of Education member. "Typically, this kind of instruction tells the kids if you see a firearm do not touch it or pick it up, alert a teacher."
Sen. Dennis Stowell, R-Parowan, who discussed the issue with a legislative committee in June, said he doesn't plan to run a bill at this point. He said his constituent who was interested in the issue, a gun safety instructor, is satisfied with the rule change for now.
Stowell said he worries that not enough schools are teaching students what to do, but he's also concerned about the cost of mandating such instruction in this tough budget time. He said the death of an Iron County girl who found a gun in a relative's home was part of his motivation to explore the idea.
"We think the best way to educate kids would be in the school, not to educate them on whether guns are good or bad, but to educate them about what to do if they find a gun," Stowell said.
Some schools already do that.
Sunrise Elementary in Sandy has a safety education program called radKIDS for its second-, fourth- and sixth-graders. As part of the program, kids spend about 45 minutes a year learning what to do if they see a gun: Run and tell an adult. Each student participates in a role-playing exercise with a plastic water gun. The PTA started the program at the school several years ago, and trained parents to teach the lessons.
Principal Frank Schofield said the program empowers students to prevent violence in their lives.
"We live in a state where we take time off from school and work to go hunting," Schofield said. "Kids are exposed to firearms and unfortunately, when there's access to firearms, there can be a tendency to experiment and investigate and that can lead to tragedy."