Brian McEntire, Getty Images/iStockphoto
STANSBURY PARK, Tooele County — Parent Christina Thompson says a lockdown at Stansbury High School this week exposed a weakness in Tooele County School District protocol.
Gunfire prompted the lockdown of three Stansbury Park schools Tuesday. Students who were off campus for lunch and then returned to school during the lockdown were not allowed back in the building.
That's what happened to Thompson's daughter and several other students. When they pounded on the school doors, the students were not let in. But police and school district officials said that's the purpose of the lockdown.
"Lockdowns are lockdowns. I understand that," Thompson said. "Nobody in, nobody out."
However, she said there should be better directions for students who are caught off campus during a lockdown.
"Those kids were locked out, and there was no safe place for them to go," Thompson said.
Neither she nor her daughter knew what was going on.
"I freaked," Thompson said. "I instantly started to panic."
No officer directed the students to a safe location, or to go home, as the school district recommends. Tooele County Sheriff Frank Park said he'd feel the same way, as a parent, if his sons were not let back inside during a potentially deadly situation.
"It's something that's got to be fixed, and so we'll find a solution," Park said.
However, the solution may not be as simple as positioning deputies to alert students returning to campus. Two dozen law officers from several departments were busy identifying the source of the shots, not accounting for students Tuesday.
Had there been an active shooter outside, those students could have been in danger when they returned to campus. It was later discovered a police officer committed suicide in the neighborhood.
According to district policy, if students are off campus at another facility during a lockdown, it is better that they remain at that location until the lockdown is lifted. If students are off campus during the lunch hour, school officials will try to reach them. It's recommended that they stay in a secure location and not return to the school, officials said.
Tooele County School District Superintendent Scott Rogers said he got a text message from police dispatchers alerting him to a "man with a gun" in that neighborhood. The message also went out to 75 other school leaders. Rogers immediately put the message out on social media.
"I say to IT, 'I want this immediately posted on the Web. I want it on Twitter and Facebook,'" Rogers said. "So within minutes it was on."
An automated phone system calls parents with students at those schools, but the lockdown was over by the time that dialing was done.
"We're going to look into seeing if there's one that's a little faster," Rogers said of that automated dialing system.
But as the district discovered Tuesday, even with a solid plan in place, some students and parents were not notified quickly. Neither Thompson nor her daughter were checking social media, and they didn't get a phone call.
Students in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints seminary building off campus were not notified either.
Rogers said he plans to meet with local law enforcement officials in the coming days to talk about changes to the policy.
In the meantime, the superintendent reminds parents and students to follow the district on Facebook and Twitter, and make sure the school has updated phone numbers.
Rogers said he's grateful a parent pointed out the weakness in lockdown procedures.
"How do you improve," he asked, "unless somebody says, 'Hey, guys. Here's something you may have missed'?"
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