Police increase Park City School District presence | ParkRecord.com

Police increase Park City School District presence

Bubba Brown and Jay Hamburger, The Park Record
The Park City School District took extra measures to ensure students safety on Tuesday, May 3, due to a threat of violence on that date made by a student last October. A heightened police presence was evident as students arrived at the Park City High School at 7:40 a.m. on Tuesday. Photo by Jake Shane/Park Record

Updated 11:45 a.m.

The Park City School District had an increased police presence Tuesday at three schools on its Kearns Boulevard campus in response to a threat made by at least one student last October.

Late Monday evening, the district sent out an alert to parents, notifying them of the threat, which made specific mention of May 3. An update to that alert, posted on the district’s Facebook page, said "the issue was centered around teachers and administration" and not targeted at students. The district said that the Park City Police Department was notified of the threat in October "and worked with the administration to take all necessary precautions to keep our students safe."

The district declined to comment on how many students were involved in the threat, or whether those involved were still enrolled in school. The update to the Facebook post stated that any students involved would not be at school Tuesday and would be under direct adult supervision.

"Our students are 100-percent safe at school today from this situation," the statement read.

Molly Miller, the district’s community relations specialist, said in an interview that she did not have specifics on the number of additional police officers present Tuesday, but said their efforts were focused on Park City High School, the Park City Learning Center and Treasure Mountain Junior High, but not McPolin Elementary School.

"I can’t speculate on the police operations, but I do know that they’re visible, they’re walking around schools, the fire department is here, just out of an abundance of caution to reassure people that students are safe," she said.

Rick Ryan, a captain with the Police Department, confirmed the Department was alerted of the initial threat in October. He added that the Police Department started receiving phone calls about the situation at about 10:30 p.m. on Monday. The police fielded approximately 30 calls from parents of students who had received notice of the threat from the district.

"Any time there’s a threat we take it serious," he said. "Certainly the parents and the school take it serious whatever the threat might be."

Phil Kirk, another police captain, said officers working the overnight shift between Monday and Tuesday monitored Park City High School. Kirk said the Summit County Sheriff’s Office and the Park City Fire District were at the school as well. He added that the Police Department was aware of the whereabouts of the person who made the threat and would ensure they do not enter a campus.

Miller said the situation first came to light in the public in the preceding days, as students who had been aware of the threat when it happened began discussing it on social media.

"As (May 3) approached, I think students kind of remembered and were, all of a sudden, wondering what was going on," she said.

That led the district to release its statement Monday evening, as the public began hearing whispers of the situation. But there was a swift outcry on Facebook as students and parents speculated about what danger would be present on the Kearns campus Tuesday. Miller said she sympathized with the upset residents, but the information the district sent out was necessarily vague due to confidentiality laws.

"We weren’t able to release much about the specifics of the threat, other than it was handled immediately by the Park City Police Department in October," she said. " I wish that we could have provided more information, but of course we have to follow the law."

Residents also vented their frustration about the timing of the district’s statement. Many on Facebook questioned why the district knew about the threat in October, but didn’t tell the public until late in the evening Monday.

"I understand exactly where that frustration about the late posting comes from," Miller said. "And if we were able to do the timing differently, I certainly would have liked to give parents more of a heads up to provide information."

The president of the parent-teacher-student organization at the high school, Pam Woll, said she was not alarmed while at the school on Tuesday morning, describing that school officials like Superintendent Ember Conley indicated the situation was under control.

Woll said her son, a junior, was at the high school taking an Advanced Placement test while her daughter was there as a substitute teacher proctoring a test.

"She went, my son went, I went," she said. "That’s how worried we were. I obviously wasn’t too worried about the threat."

Woll said herself and other members of the parent-teacher-student organization wrote thank-you notes with treats to teachers and other school staffers and put them in their campus mailboxes.

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