Safe Schools: Several Utah districts see increase in threats after Florida shooting

Mar 23, 2018, 5:00 PM | Updated: 9:33 pm

SALT LAKE COUNTY — Following the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 people dead, several Wasatch Front school districts saw an uptick in the number of school threats they had to investigate.

No district may have seen a larger increase in reported threats than Granite School District.

“What we’ve seen in the last few weeks is almost equal to what we’ve seen up unto this point in the year,” district spokesman Ben Horsley said. “There are a handful of us here at the district level that are spending at least 50 percent of our time focused on the next one that has just come about or the new one.”

Horsley said district workers have spent hundreds of man hours investigating those threats.

“We take every threat seriously—we’ve actually had four prosecutions of students actually making a threat,” Horsley said. “In every one of those instances, it was considered a joke. It’s not funny to us.”

Horsley said none of the threats investigated this school year—after Parkland or before—proved to be credible.

It’s not just Granite that has seen a difference.

Weber, Ogden, Davis, Jordan, Canyons, Alpine and Nebo all acknowledged some sort of increase in school threats and investigations since Parkland.

While school district officials chalked some of the difference up to copycats, they said they believed an increase in investigations was more often due to hypervigilance in the wake of the Florida shooting.

“Safety is more on the minds of students, parents, employees,” said Ogden School District spokesman Jer Bates. “If the result means not having another incident like that ever again, I’ll gladly have more people be vigilant.”

Psychological Effect

2018 already has brought 17 school shootings.

Threats make headlines every day.

Horsley said many parents and students have been uneasy.

“We’re seeing so much anxiety about coming to school—not only from the kids themselves, but more often from the parents,” Horsley said. “I think frankly, a lot of this is getting overblown to the extent where it’s causing a lot of damage emotionally to our kids and to our society as a whole.”

Heidi Vawdrey, a parent from Herriman, who also consults students on anxiety and depression in her job as a nurse practitioner, said she sees the effect on kids as well.

“I have definitely seen an increase in the number of anxious kids that I see in clinic and that I talk to when I do my outreach,” Vawdrey said. “It’s a cumulative effect. I don’t think you can point to one thing and say ‘this one school shooting triggered a whole generation of kids to be more anxious.’ When you have event after event after event and then the social media fallout of that—which is very unpredictable and often negative and kind of blown up disproportionately—then you see this low-grade, cumulative anxiety level get higher and higher to where it becomes maladaptive, and people cannot figure out how to come back down off of that baseline high level down to a normal level.”

Vawdrey said she has talked regularly with her own children about school threats and violence.

“I feel like talking about is a good idea, because then you at least know what’s going on,” said Rachel Vawdrey, 14, a student at Fort Herriman Middle School. “I don’t feel like it should be excessively discussed. If you talk about it all the time, then you get all hyped up for it and you’re all too ready for something to happen.

Heidi Vawdrey recommended meditation and meditation apps to help those who are stressed.

She said, however, that a little anxiety is natural and healthy—as is vigilance.

“The probability that you’re going to get shot at school or have harm come to you is very, very low,” Vawdrey said. “We discuss it, we discuss emotions and feelings, and then we move on.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Safe Schools

This week on Sunday Edition, Doug discusses the ongoing investigation into the hoax school threats ...


Sunday Edition: Hoax School Threats, GSL Water Levels, Smith’s Ballpark Future

This week on Sunday Edition, Doug discusses the ongoing investigation into the hoax school threats that have been circulating, this year's record-breaking moisture is impacting the water levels of the Great Salt Lake, and how the Ballpark community is getting a say in the future of the Smith's Ballpark.

14 days ago

Follow @KSL5TVLike us on Facebook...

Deanie Wimmer

Utah lawmaker questions schools leaving money on the table for mental health screenings

Schools screen vision and hearing, so why not mental health? While funding is available, most Utah schools do not take part in a state program to provide mental health screenings in school, even though suicide is the number one cause of death among Utah teens.

24 days ago

(Shara Park/KSL TV)...

Shara Park

Sounds similar to gunshots prompt evacuation at Sunburst Elementary School

Dozens of armed officers rushed into Sunburst Elementary School Monday after a report of a possible shooting. Thankfully, it wasn't one, but parents and students were still shaken up.

2 months ago

(KSL TV)...

Ashley Moser

Canyons School District reflects on safety following Tennessee school shooting

All of the elementary, middle and some of the Canyons School District’s high schools have security vestibules at the front of campus — one of many security measures in place to protect students and staff.

2 months ago

(KSL TV)...

Shelby Lofton

Spanish Fork High says emergency app helped during hoax call lockdown

The Nebo School District credits a new phone app for quick communication and direction during Wednesday's lockdown after hoax calls came in about a shooting threat.

2 months ago

Nashville school shooting...

Pat Reavy, 

Quick actions of Nashville officers saved lives, former Utah chiefs say

The officers who stopped an active shooter at a Nashville elementary school on Monday did exactly what they were supposed to do.

2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Brunette guy in headphones playing games on his desktop computer...

PC Laptops

Looking For a New Computer? Use This Desktop Buying Guide

Choosing a new desktop computer can come with a lot of questions, so we created this desktop buying guide.

Portrait of happy boy playing and splashing water in the swimming pool...

Get Out Pass

Family Fun Activities in Utah You Have to Try This Summer

These family fun activities will entertain you all summer, so if you ever feel stuck in a rut wondering what to do, refer to this guide!

Woman IT specialist in elegant suit working on notebook computer in data center next to server rack...

Les Olson

Your Complete Guide to Outsourcing IT Services

This guide covers everything you need to know about the different benefits of outsourcing IT services to meet your small business needs.

diverse group of friends dance outside under string lights...

Lighting Design

5 Frequently Asked Questions About Outdoor Lighting

Read for the most frequently asked questions about outdoor lighting to help narrow the search for your home.

Stack of old laptops with dark background...

PC Laptops

Old Laptop Upgrades You Need to Try Before Throwing it Away

Get the most out of your investment. Try these old laptop upgrades before throwing it out to keep it running fast and efficient.

Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...

BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.

Safe Schools: Several Utah districts see increase in threats after Florida shooting