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School Districts Look To Students For Violence Prevention

Lee Hale
The SafeUT smartphone app allows students to anonymously notify their schools of potential threats or corncern for peers.

A major crisis was averted on Thursday at Mueller Park Junior High in Bountiful. A 15-year-old student entered a classroom with a shotgun, fired a single round into the ceiling but was quickly subdued before harming any peers.

The scene at Mueller Park Friday morning is evidence that the students all went through something together. Paper hearts cover doors, walls and lockers.


“They say things like ‘panther strong,’ ‘you are brave,’ ‘the force is with you,’ ‘you are loved,'" says Chris Williams, community director for Davis School District.


Williams says there’s an obvious feeling of gratitude. Things could have gone much worse. But the student in question was followed to school by his parents once they realized guns were missing from the home. They hurried to his classroom.


“They heard the gunshot, they came and subdued him," says Williams. "Within a minute, I want to say 41 seconds, there was an officer who was in the area who responded."


This incident comes just weeks after a stabbing at Mountain View High School in Orem. And an obvious question follows: Is enough being done to prevent these kinds of attacks?


Here’s a common response:


"The best cameras, the best security system we have is the eyes and ears of our students," says Ben Horsley, communications director of Granite School District, the largest district in Salt Lake County.


Horsley pulls up an app students are encouraged to use. It’s called SafeUT. He describes a hypothetical situation with a ninth grader.


“You’ve got that ninth grade student. Heard someone talking about a weapon in the school. Pulls open the app, there’s a submit a tip button," says Horsley. "They simply click on it. They identify their location.”


And they describe the danger. It could be a weapon or a student doing self harm. The whole process is anonymous and Horsley says students do use it. He also insists that it’s the best option.


Following weeks like this one, districts often discuss heightened security, fences and metal detectors. But Horsley says it’s important to preserve a welcoming atmosphere.


“A nice, pleasing, friendly environment that’s educationally conducive. And not like a prison," says Horsley.


Ultimately, the extent of successful prevention is hard to gauge — because they aren’t the stories making the news.

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