How Teachers Can Save Lives

posted on August 3, 2021
Utah County Sheriff's Office

This month, Sheriff Mike Smith and the Utah County Sheriff’s Office will once again conduct its “Teachers Academy” in various locations around Utah County, Utah, home to Provo, and the state’s second most-populous county. The course was limited to 30 participants—and it filled up in less than a week after the dates were announced.

A 27-year veteran of law enforcement, Sheriff Smith began working to create the course after a murderer struck a high school several years ago.

“As we cleared the school, officers came across multiple teachers who were armed,” Smith told “The state laws allow concealed carry, but the schools and districts have taken a basic ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ stance on this subject. The result had left teachers without training, policies and direction on how to act and interact with responding officers or if they are confronted by the suspect.” 

To prepare Utah County educators for such situations, the 20-hour Teachers Academy presents teachers, administrators, and school support staff with lessons learned from “active-shooter” incidents in the United States and around the world. 

Course topics include:

  • Tactical Emergency Medical Techniques
  • Weapons Familiarization
  • Utah Concealed Carry Certification
  • VirTra Simulator Training
  • Tactical De-Escalation
  • Self-Defense
  • Live Fire Range Day (Shooting skills & qualification course)

The 2021 Teachers Academy represents the fourth time the program has been offered by the Utah County Sheriff’s Office; to date, 120 educators have taken the course.

“The reaction to this training has been very positive,” said Smith. “I have had a few people make uninformed, negative comments about ‘arming teachers’ or ‘making teachers do the cops’ job.’ The reality is we are not arming teachers with firearms—we are arming them with knowledge.”

Many of the teachers who have taken the course had already made the decision to carry a firearm into their respective schools. The course, then, helps them to understand the liability associated with doing this, plus it gives them training to be safe and effective when carrying and using their firearms.

“As far as doing the cops’ job, we are not asking that of teachers and staff, either,” said Smith. “We are asking teachers to lock down at their schools as they are instructed. We do not want them chasing down a suspect! They are taught to lock down first, and then to defend themselves and their students only if the suspect makes it to them prior to police arrival.”

While media outlets have tended to focus on the firearms aspects of the Teachers Academy, Smith noted the coursework covers many non-firearms-related subjects.

“One of our most-popular classes has been one that focuses on mindfulness and de-escalation. Educators are taught how to deal with someone who is in an aggravated, violent or just upset emotional state. They are taught practical skills to notice red-flag behavioral issues, to be mindful of these and how to address them.”

Participants are also drilled in “Stop the Bleed” first aid, learning first responder skills of how to treat traumatic wounds through tourniquet use and proper wound packing and dressing. They leave the class with a tactical trauma kit. 

“I do not believe teachers have to be victims,” said Smith. “It is okay for them to defend themselves and their students. I believe that if our educators have a game plan for ‘what might come next,’ they can and will make a difference. They can save lives.”


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