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Father outraged over 'lack of security' at high school

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HOLLADAY— A father in the Granite School District is outraged over what he calls a "lack of security" at Olympus High School.

J.C. McKissen said police called him last week to inform him his daughter had been named in a threat.

"A bunch of kids had called them and given them a tip that this student had either gotten a gun, or was going to get a gun, and shoot our daughter in the face," McKissen said.

McKissen held his ninth grade daughter out of school until Wednesday after the school assured him a safety plan was in place to keep her safe. He said the school did follow that plan but when he stopped by the school to check overall safety measures, he couldn't believe how accessible the campus was to anyone wanting to enter.

"We can't even talk about guns if we're not going to lock the schools," McKissen said.

The front doors aren't locked during school hours at Granite School District high schools. But, McKissen said that's just where it started. He got out his phone and started shooting video of how easy it was to roam the halls without being questioned.

"In the cafeteria, there was a custodial worker (who) didn't ask me any questions or anything," McKissen said.

Over the next several minutes of video, McKissen roamed the halls, from the cafeteria to the second floor.

"I walked right up to the doorway of a classroom in one instance and literally no one said anything to me," McKissen said.

I walked right up to the doorway of a classroom in one instance and literally no one said anything to me.

–J.C. McKissen

He is outraged by the lack of compliance with policy and security.

Granite School District spokesperson Ben Horsley wants schools to be more secure too, but said that comes down to money.

"It's my worst nightmare, it's what keeps me up at night," Horsley said regarding a violent incident at a Granite school.

Horsley also released this statement:

"We sincerely appreciate Mr. McKissen's concerns and I have spent an extended amount of time with him after this incident involving his child. He is understandably upset regarding the situation with his daughter. Due to the threat, a safety plan was created specific for this student that includes an adult tracker that remains with this child throughout the day. The perpetrator in this case is not a student and was not found to have access to a weapon and is currently in a secure facility. We appreciate the prompt response from Unified Police who provides the SRO at this campus and are the lead agency in the investigation. We are unable to comment further regarding their investigation.

With respect to the security at the Olympus High facility, exterior doors are secured after every class change and after lunch. Two sets of doors are open throughout the day and adult supervision of those entry points has been provided in the past and will be reassessed. During transitions, we have several hundred students who come from off-campus learning sites, including the LDS seminary program across the street.

As a school and district, we continually assess and evaluate how to ensure the security of all facilities, including the use of secure vestibules. At the current time, Granite has funded and built secure entries at 57 of our elementary schools with the average cost of over a million dollars for each project. We have the seven remaining campuses under construction at the current time. Additionally, we are working to install doorbell systems at our junior high locations so those doors can remain locked at all times. We share his concerns with respect to getting these projects completed as soon as possible and have worked diligently within the funding constraints we have to do so.

Just yesterday, our superintendent reminded our staff districtwide in his snapshot videos about our security protocols in this video:

The issue of open high school campuses is a statewide issue and concern and is not unique to Granite District or Olympus High. We have a district level committee that meets several times monthly in an ongoing effort to evaluate security and opportunities to enhance our facilities. Specifically, we regularly address and work to identify funding mechanisms to secure our campuses. This committee is currently in the process of evaluating weapons detection systems. From the patron's video, it's obvious that students can go out multiple doors and could theoretically let someone in which is what occurred in the video. Having multiple doors for exiting is required to vacate/exit a campus in any emergency.

We share this patron's concerns and our ongoing efforts demonstrate a commitment to safety for all of our students and staff and we will continue to work towards that end. It was conveyed to him that the district will do everything in its power to ensure his child's safety and the safety of all students and staff."

Horsley said additional security is limited by budget deficits. The cost would require legislative approval and taxpayer funding.

McKissen said it's time to take security seriously.

"I believe it's only a matter of time before something very bad happens either at this school or another school in this district that follows the same policy," McKissen said.


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Debbie Worthen


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