Guest editorial: Park City School District designates Safe School Weeks

Ember Conley
Park City School District superintendent

National Safe Schools Week is October 16-20 and we have increased the awareness and have designated October 16-29 as Park City School District’s Safe School Weeks. The two-week focus is to ensure the safety, wellness, and health of all our students and to heighten awareness community wide to the important measures we are taking to increase safety for our students and staff. We will update the community about how schools are being made safer, and how we are ensuring that our schools are a place where students can perform their best. A year after the loss of two of our students, we continue to turn our attention to making sure this never happens again in our schools.

Say something

Did you know that when it comes to threats of violence or suicide, most are known by at least one other person before the incident takes place? Imagine how much tragedy could be averted if these individuals said something?

We ask students and parents to look for warning signs, signals and threats, especially in social media, from peers who might be planning to hurt themselves or someone else, and to say something to an adult to get help and save a life.

Drug use

In addition, we are still working on improving our curriculum that educates our students to the effects of drug use on the brain. To tackle this complex epidemic, we have also added “trauma-informed and resiliency-focused” measures, such as teaching mindfulness; promoting connections through peer groups; and using the positive psychology framework, Authentic Strengths, to “build on the strengths of our kids rather than trying to diminish that depression and anxiety.”

Students are learning the skills of continuing to move forward, have hope, and persevere. When students cultivate grit, perseverance, and resilience, they understand that hurt doesn’t last forever—that they can move through life’s challenges instead of avoiding them. It’s mental well-being that we’re focused on, not just drug and alcohol prevention.

We continue to encourage parents, grandparents, and trusted adults to are continue the dialogue at home with their children. Reviewing and being involved in their social media accounts is key. Most information that we receive at the school level begins with social media.

Partnering with law enforcement

PCSD is continuing to work with law enforcement and other community agencies to provide the best services possible for our students. The afternoon and evening of Oct. 17 the Summit County Sherriff’s Office, Park City Police Department and Park Fire Department conducted SWAT training at our high school — an appropriate training to be conducted during our Safe Schools events.

In December, PCSD is hosting an emergency crisis tabletop exercise with county and city agencies to work on improving our crisis response.

Safer facilities

And finally, the Board of Education is committed to improving safety in our schools. The Board recently reallocated $3 million to improve safety measures at all schools, including an emergency management system, updating all interior and exterior perimeters, and implementing a new visitor management system. The new visitor system is meant to protect our children — no one will be allowed into our schools without first checking in at the front offices with proper I.D. This will require remodeling of all our school front offices. The new measures will be a change to current practice, but we are dedicated to the safety of our students and staff.


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