Experts: SafeUT app has helped thwart threats at Utah schools

May 25, 2022, 5:14 PM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 5:19 pm

SALT LAKE CITYAs our nation reflects on another school massacre, we want to highlight a program that is making a difference in school safety in Utah. The SafeUT app was launched more than five years ago as a response to a public health crisis with suicide. That app has also helped thwart violent attacks at schools.

The SafeUT app gives students, parents and educators a way to reach out immediately for support when a student is struggling or making threats of violence. SafeUT leaders said the app has definitely saved lives in Utah schools.

“It’s more than once a day that we’re receiving reports, on average, about potential acts of violence, “ said Rachel Lucynski, who oversees SafeUT for Huntsman Mental Health Institute and the University of Utah.

The SafeUT app was not designed to thwart school threats, but Lucynski said it has.

“We had more than 400 tips in the last year that specifically related to guns, a planned school attack, threats of weapons, knives, or explosives being brought to school. So just those five categories alone, we’ve had more than 400 tips,” she said.

On the SafeUT app, students can have a messaging session with a counselor, or submit confidential tips to crisis counselors about school threats. It is staffed by career counselors at Huntsman Mental Health Institute 24/7.

Confidential tips range from concerns about friends with suicidal thoughts, to potential threats of violence overheard in the hallway, or posts seen online.

“We know of more than a handful of events that were probably thwarted because of tips that have came through SafeUT,” said Scott Langenecker, PhD., a professor of psychiatry at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute who also helps oversee the SafeUT app.

“We live in, unfortunately, a very divided time,” he added.

That divisiveness that impacts many aspects of political and social life also impacts decisions to kill students, he said.

“We should actually be focusing on ways in which we can agree as individuals who might have different opinions,” Langenecker said.

We need to find ways to agree on how to limit violence, he said. We need to have more conversations at home and at school about reducing violence in our actions and thoughts or shootings will continue.

He said there are things that parents can do at home to keep their family safe. Gun locks and gun safes should be used to secure handguns and keep them away from family members.

“We don’t have to decide between gun safety and the second amendment,” he said. “We can actually make good decisions about how to improve the safety of our families in Utah without sacrificing our Second Amendment rights.”

He suggested that our state lawmakers should take another look at emergency protective orders that would temporarily remove guns from individuals who might pose a threat to themselves or others.

Also, talk about what to do if you see something concerning or become aware of a threat.

“That it’s brave and courageous to report concerns if you see something, and it’s always better safe than sorry,” Lucynski said.

She encourages students, parents and educators to download the SafeUT app and be ready and comfortable to use it.

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Experts: SafeUT app has helped thwart threats at Utah schools