This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
During a legislative committee hearing on Monday, lawmakers remarked, without specifics, on the rules they broke and mischievous deeds they committed in their younger years.
Rep. Sandra Hollins, a Salt Lake City Democrat, said teenagers act out, even those who later grow up to be members of the Utah House of Representatives.
"The only difference between us and the kids today is we didn't get caught doing what we were doing," Hollins said.
The conversation surrounded HB460, which was unanimously endorsed by the committee and later approved by the full House. Sponsored by Hollins, the bill would create a training program for school administrators and school resource officers.
The proposal is aimed at diverting the so-called "school-to-prison pipeline," in which children, and particularly those of minority groups, are placed on a trajectory of academic failure and criminality by disproportionate contact with law enforcement and disciplinary actions.
At schools where resource officers are assigned, Hollins said, academic infractions like truancy and fighting can be escalated to a criminal level by the presence and intervention of a police officer.
Under the bill, the training program would be developed by the Utah State Office of Education and would include topics like cultural awareness, deescalation and helping students who have been exposed to violence or trauma.
The bill would also establish contract requirements for school resource officers, outlining the expectations of how and when an officer should be involved in student discipline.
Michael Clara, a member of the Salt Lake City Board of Education, said inconsistencies in the assignment and roles of resource officers place some students on a "collision course" with the police.
He said students misbehave and show disrespect toward authority, but too often school administrators will turn to law enforcement for what should warrant an academic response.
"We were criminalizing behavior that didn't need to be criminalized," he said.
The bill received the support of the ACLU of Utah, Disability Law Center and law enforcement representatives.
Tom Ross, Bountiful City police chief, said the bill would provide clarification on the roles of school resource officers.
It's necessary to keep schools safe, he said, but officers can provide more to a school community than just the enforcement of criminal law.
"There have been questions over the years of when it's appropriate for a police officer to step in," he said.
And James Evans, chairman of the Utah Republican Party, said the bill strikes a balance between safety and sensitivity.
"I see this giving more tools to law enforcement so they're able to do their job in a more defined way," he said.