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Park City School District highlights active shooter safety measures on campuses

According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 377 school shootings since Columbine in 1999. And guns are the leading cause of death among American children and teens. The Park City School District has an extensive school safety plan in place that uses emerging technology and encourages students and staff to report unusual behavior and threats.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 377 school shootings since Columbine in 1999. Guns are now the leading cause of death among American youth.

After last week’s school shooting in Nashville, some in the Park City community are wondering about local school safety.

Mass shootings, which are defined as those wounding or killing at least four people, are a tragic part of American society. According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 131 mass shootings so far in 2023 – more than the number of days in this year so far.

With the frequency and headlines of school shootings, some are asking what – if anything - prevents such a tragedy from happening here?

Mike Tanner is chief operating officer for the Park City School District. He said the district’s security plan is extensive and layered.

The district began updating security measures in 2019 based on Department of Homeland Security recommendations. One of the first additions was installing vestibules with armored glass at all schools. That theoretically keeps people entering schools in chambers without the ability to go farther before checking in with receptionists, who use Raptor software to run an I.D. for a background check.

“So what you saw happened at the shooting in Nashville, when she shot through the front door,” he said. “That wouldn't happen in our front doors, what would happen is a bullet round would go potentially through that to the glass, depending on the velocity of the round, and what kind of round was used. But the pane would not have shattered out and it would have taken her much longer to use a rifle butt to try to club through that that door.”

Tanner said it’s not perfect protection, but it buys time for law enforcement, which can be crucial in an active shooter situation.

He explained that the district has a security committee that includes representatives of the Summit County Sheriff’s Office and Park City Police Department along with county and city emergency management personnel. There are also staff members, teachers, and students on the committee.

One purpose of the committee is to keep up with emerging ideas in the school safety industry. Tanner said the committee looks at suggestions and decides what the district will vet for possible installation.

Currently the district is in the process of implementing a new technology called Aegix AIM that will reside on handheld devices or the desktops of teachers and staff.

“And they'll be able to enact a lockdown right from that device. So they notice a problem, they hit the button on their device, building locks down, emergency signal is sent directly to dispatch,” Tanner said. “And the cool thing about it is that that emergency signal comes with a Geotag of where that person is residing in the building. So, if a teacher in room 222 hits the button, dispatch will know that the stress call is coming from room 222.”

Tanner said the district is holding a ‘train the trainer’ session for Aegix AIM on April 19th. Teacher training will roll out in the fall.

Another technology coming to the district is called ZeroEyes, which is an AI gun detection technology. It uses artificial intelligence to put eyes on the 500 cameras the district has in its buildings. The AI works 24/7 and it’s actively searching for weapons.

“It pushes our perimeter out, like just for instance, with a Nashville thing, it would have picked up that woman coming out of her car, the minute she presented a weapon it would have picked up in a parking lot, it would have immediately sent the note to dispatch,” he said. “And that time between the time she left the car and the time she entered the building that would have already been vehicles en route and it would have shown that she was on the second floor and where she was at.”

Tanner said he believes ZeroEyes will be implemented in the next fiscal year.

But he also emphasized that the biggest deterrent to a shooting is a person reporting unusual behavior and threats before anything happens.

One of the ways the district does that is through a system called Gaggle. It’s a program that enables the district to look at emails sent between students as well as files stored on district’s domain. It searches for keywords like suicide, weapons, drug use and bullying.

“And we probably get five to 10 a day, I would say, across the district, the vast majority of which are nothing. They might be a college essay that somebody picked up and say, 'hey I thought about suicide when I was a freshman. And now I’m beyond that, but every one of those is looked at by a responsible person, a counselor, an assistant principal that’s taking the ground where they say, I've talked to the kid, I've talked to mom and dad. They're aware. There’s no threat.”

Tanner also emphasized the importance of the Safe UT app. It’s a crisis chat and anonymous tip line that’s available to everyone in the state.

Elementary schools take part in lockdown or lockout drills once a month, while the upper schools do them every two months. During these drills, the district follows a standard response protocol and reunification method created by a foundation called I love you guys after Columbine.