Canyons School District: Malfunction led to lockdown announcement at Butler Middle School

Aug 25, 2023, 10:19 PM

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah — Canyons School District confirmed Friday that a malfunction in a new security system activated a lockdown announcement at Butler Middle School that led students to worry about a possible active shooter.

Students and parents said the announcement came in the middle of the school day from a “robotic” voice over the intercom.

“It was like, ‘there is someone in the school, lights out, doors locked, out of sight,’” recalled 6th grader Sophia Zaryoun.

Fellow 6th grader Kaia Korte said the announcement left everyone in her class unnerved.

“I look over to my teacher and her face was, like, white and her pupils were, like, shrunk,” Korte said. “You automatically kind of think a shooter.”

Zaryoun said several students were crying during the ordeal.

“I’ve heard about, like, shootings on TV and I never knew what that felt like and today I kind of did,” she said.

Though it appeared that Butler Middle School was being placed in lockdown mode, Canyons School District spokesman Jeff Haney said it happened only by mistake and there was never an emergency or lockdown.

“There was a crew installing and doing maintenance on a new emergency notification system and during the course of the maintenance there was a malfunction,” Haney said.

Haney said one minute later, the principal got on the PA system to inform the students there was no emergency.

“We had kids texting parents, we had teachers, you know, messaging their loved ones,” Haney said. “We totally understand that.”

According to Haney, the malfunction ironically came as crews working to improve security at Butler and 7 other schools around the district.

“When there’s an inside threat, it would notify through this automated announcement,” Haney said. “The reason we are putting this particular system into place is so that within seconds of there being an inside threat there would be an automatic announcement to everybody in the school that there’s an inside threat and they should hide, find cover and stay safe. That’s what it said. And of course, we understand that could cause some concern among middle school students and teachers. What we hoped was the second announcement calmed their fears.”

Haney said going forward work on the system would take place when students are not in the building.

“It caused quite a bit of commotion in a school community and we don’t want that to happen again,” he said.

Parent Katie Korte said her daughter “was not well” when she picked her up after school and had worries and emotions that extended well beyond school hours Friday.

“I think the district owes an apology to parents and students and the teachers for their error in this,” the mother said. “I mean, that was a big error in judgment to do this kind of work during a school day.”

She said she was glad to hear that the district was improving security at her child’s school and others.

“I wish we would have known about, like, what upgrades were going on,” Korte said. “It could have easily been solved by just letting someone know, letting the staff know, that this was happening today.”

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Canyons School District: Malfunction led to lockdown announcement at Butler Middle School