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Granite OKs gun policy

District reverses earlier stance to match state law

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Granite School District apparently is the quickest draw in Utah in terms of setting policy to allow legally carried firearms on its campuses.

The Board of Education Tuesday night reversed its school workers' weapons ban and unanimously approved a policy allowing employees to carry legally concealed firearms, as required under a new state law. The board is believed to be the state's first to do so. Jordan and Murray school districts are working on similar policies.

Granite's policy, however, clashes with the attorney general's views on whether state insurance policies would cover a worker who fired a gun at school in self defense.

Still, Granite attorney and assistant superintendent Martin Bates believes the policy is sound. After all, he told the board, leaders at the Department of State Risk Management "were very supportive of the language and substance" in the policy.

The district plans to forward its policy to Senate Majority Leader Mike Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, who sponsored the new concealed weapons law in the 2003 Legislature. Waddoups could not be reached immediately for comment Tuesday night.

Granite's policy comes under Waddoups' SB108, which aims to clear up legal conflicts on where concealed weapons permit holders could carry their guns.

One law said permit holders can carry without restriction; another banned dangerous materials — interpreted as guns in some school districts — on public school campuses.

The new law still makes it illegal to bring guns to schools but exempts people with concealed weapons permits. School districts have been working up new policies to match the law.

Last week, Jordan and Granite officials discussed their proposals with Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, who requested the meeting to ensure everyone was "on the same page."

Shurtleff reiterated Utah law barring anyone but the state Legislature from setting guns policy. In other words, school policies couldn't be more restrictive than state law.

Granite changed a few words in its proposal to ensure that law was followed. For instance, no longer does the policy require permit holders to keep the weapon "on their person," but simply "readily accessible for immediate use," as explicitly stated in state law. But basically it accomplishes the same district goal of not allowing teachers to leave weapons in a desk drawer or coat closet. In fact, doing so would be cause for termination under the policy.

But the district remained firm that insurance would not cover employees who fire their weapons at school, whether in legal self-defense or not.

"Any and all demands, liabilities claims, damages, actions or proceedings . . . including attorney's fees and costs of a suit, relating to or arising out of an employee's decision to carry, use or threaten the use of a weapon will be the responsibility of the employee without any recourse to or liability protection from or through the district," the policy states.

That's because, "with the exception of police officers, an employee's decision to carry, use or threaten the use of a weapon is unequivocally outside the scope of the employee's employment," the policy states.

The Department of State Risk Management, the district's insurer, does not protect employees acting outside their scope of employment, Bates has said.

Shurtleff, however, has told the Deseret News that State Risk Management has to cover workers in incidents in which they acted lawfully. Firing a legally concealed weapon in self defense is, in fact, lawful.

Some education officials believe the question would have to be decided in court.

E-mail: jtcook@desnews.com