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

Top Stories

Safe Schools

FILE - UCLA campus in Los Angeles (Google Earth Pro)...

Police: Man in custody in Colo. over alleged threats to UCLA

A man who allegedly threatened the University of California, Los Angeles, and detailed potential violence against the prominent university over hundreds of pages has been taken into custody in Colorado following a standoff Tuesday.
8 months ago
An unidentified school hallway.(FILE PHOTO, KSL TV)...
Larry D. Curtis, KSL TV

Roosevelt police charge 3 students after threats promoting school gun violence

Police in Roosevelt City said they have charged three local students with a felony each for participating in a social media campaign to threaten schools.
9 months ago
Ogden school resource officers went back to class to learn about connecting with teens. (Winston Ar...
Alex Cabrero, KSL TV

New class helps Ogden school resource officers connect with teens

School resource officers with Ogden Police Department attended an important class Tuesday designed to help officers understand students better. 
10 months ago
Ladd Egan, KSL TV

SafeUT app helps parents, students and schools during safety threats

The supervisor of the SafeUT app said days like Utah experienced on Monday — with several school safety threats — show the vital role the app plays in helping students, parents and school administrators.
10 months ago
Woods Cross Teen Center rendering. (Davis Education Foundation)...
Dirk Facer, KSL TV

Woods Cross HS breaking ground on homeless center

Groundbreaking today for a teen resource center for students experiencing homelessness.
10 months ago
Debbie Worthen, KSL TV

Canyon School District creates school shooting response plan

After a student shooting occurred just off campus of Union Middle School, Canyon School District has created a school shooting response plan.
10 months ago

Sponsored Articles

young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Types of Computer Malware and Examples...
PC Laptops

5 Nasty Types of Computer Malware and Examples | Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Computer and Family Safe

Here are the different types of computer malware and examples that could potentially infect your computer.
tips how to quit smoking...

7 Tips How to Quit Smoking | Quitting Smoking Might be One of the Hardest Things You Ever Do but Here’s Where You Can Start

Quitting smoking cigarettes can be incredibly difficult. Here are 7 tips how to quit smoking to help you on your quitting journey.
Photo: Storyblocks...
Blue Stakes of Utah 811

Blue Stakes of Utah 811: 5 Reasons To Call 811 Before You Dig When Working in Your Yard

Call before you dig. Even at home, you could end up with serious injuries or broken utilities just because you didn't call Blue Stakes of Utah 811.
Days of...
Days of '47 Rodeo

TRIVIA: How well do you know your rodeo? Take this quiz before you go to the Days of ’47!

The Utah Days of ’47 Rodeo presented by Zions Bank is a one-of-a-kind Gold Medal Rodeo being held July 20-23, 25 at 7:30 PM. The Days of ’47 Rodeo How well do you know your rodeo trivia? Take the quiz to test your know-all before heading out to the Days of ’47 Rodeo at the […]
Safe Schools: Several Utah districts see increase in threats after Florida shooting