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Canyon School District creates school shooting response plan

Jeff Haney, left, is the director of communications for Canyons School District. He says the district is working to improve its safety protocols. (Adam Sotelo, KSL-TV)

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

SANDY — One Utah school district that experienced a school shooting in 2016 says student safety continues to be a top priority.

Jeff Haney is the director of communications for Canyons School District. When news hits of a school shooting, it takes him back to that October day in 2016.

"It was one of those days when everything seemed to stop," says Haney of the day a 14-year-old Union Middle School student shot a 16-year-old at point-blank range.

"I thought at the time, is this the day the Canyons becomes synonymous with Columbine?" says Haney.

The shooting happened near Union Middle School at a park as school was ending, so there were lots of witnesses. Jasen Trotter was one of them, and at the time described the scene like this:

"One of them raised a gun, looked like a 38-Special. He shot the other student. When the other student was on the ground, he shot him again."

The shooter was offered a plea deal — be charged as a juvenile on attempted murder charges and admit to the crime — which he did. Fortunately, the victim survived.

Haney says the incident exposed some holes in safety protocol in times of crisis, something the district worked to fix.

"We identified where there were some areas of our emergency response plan that had holes in it," Haney said.

The superintendent created a team with local law enforcement, members of the Utah State Board of Education and district members to meet monthly to review and train for emergency situations. The district also uses the SafeUT app and hopes to implement an additional safety measure soon. Another app, but one that allows users to interact with law enforcement in real time, like a panic button, so to speak. It's called the DIR-S App.

The district ran a pilot program with the app at Canyon View Elementary for two years, and users loved it. The app lets teachers, staff and law enforcement communicate with each other in real time. When one person triggers an alert — everyone gets it. The app also allows users to say whether a classroom is safe — and it accounts for every student. That way, police know where to go first.

The app took a back seat when COVID-19 hit. Haney still hopes the district will implement it. While he knows there is no guarantee, he believes student safety is always a top priority.

"Anytime that you hear news bulletins or see a headline that there has been violence at a school, we don't want that to be white noise," says Haney. "We want people to sit up and pay attention."


Debbie Worthen


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