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STANSBURY PARK, Tooele County — Following a three-school lockdown in Tooele County Tuesday, one mother fears her daughter faced an unnecessary risk, especially if a dangerous situation had materialized.
"I just want something done," said Christina Thompson, whose daughter is a senior at Stansbury High School. "I don't want anything happening to the kids."
As it turned out, no students were in danger, and the lockdown was lifted after an hour, but the district and police are taking a close look at lessons they might learn from the lockdown.
Stansbury High was one of the three schools put on lockdown Tuesday when shots were fired in the surrounding neighborhood. Students who were off campus for lunch, and then returned to school during the lockdown, were not allowed back into the building.
That's what happened to Thompson's daughter and several other students. When they pounded on the door to the school, the students were not let in. But, as police and the school district point out, that's the purpose of the lockdown.
"Lockdowns are lockdowns, I understand that. Nobody in, nobody out," Thompson said.
However, Thompson 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," she says.
Neither Thompson 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 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, and not accounting for students on 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.
"During a lockdown, if students are off campus at another facility, it is better they remain at that location until the lockdown is lifted," the school district policy says. "If students are off campus during the lunch hour, we will try to reach them and our recommendation is for them to stay in a secure location and not return to the school."
School Superintendent Scott Rogers got a text from police dispatch alerting him to a "man with a gun" in that neighborhood. That message also went 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," Rogers said. "I want it on Twitter, and Facebook, and boom.. So, within minutes it was on."
Is there a better practice? Is there something we can do other than divert the students to home, or stay where you're at for lunch until there's an all clear?
–Scott Rogers, School Superintendent
An automated phone system calls parents with students at those schools. But, the lockdown was over Tuesday 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 this district discovered yesterday, even with a solid plan in place, some students and parents were not notified quickly. Neither Thompson nor her daughter were checking social media, nor did they get a phone call.
Students in the LDS Seminary building off-campus were not notified either.
"Is there a better practice?" Rogers said. "Is there something we can do other than divert the students to home, or stay where you're at for lunch until there's an all clear?"
Rogers said the district is working on that. He plans to meet with the sheriff and the Tooele City police chief in the next couple of 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 this weakness in their lockdown procedures at a time when students lives were not at risk.
"How do you improve unless somebody says, 'Hey guys, here's something you may have missed'?"