SALT LAKE CITY — Monday was a concerning day for Utah police departments and school districts responding to multiple threats.
“In general, our trends in the state seem to be threat tips go up around the start of the school year and around the end of the school year,” said Denia-Marie Ollerton with Safe UT.
Child psychologist Dr. Douglas Goldsmith called the nationwide uptick in school threats a “severe issue.” His main concerns are with mental health, anger management, heavy influences of social media and exposure to violence.
“I think at some level, children had better coping skills in previous generations. They had learned some ways to manage that, and now it has become through violence and social media,” Goldsmith said.
An alleged gun threat on social media placed West High School in lockdown, and three high schoolers were detained.
Multiple Box Elder County schools moved to online learning Monday because of various threats.
“One of them was a young man, Bear River High School student, who had a quick video and it looped two or three times and it said something about ‘tomorrow.’ And you could see the pistol right here,” said Steve Carlsen, superintendent of Box Elder Schools.
Tremonton Garland Police Department inspected eight schools and executed two search warrants. Officers are looking at pressing criminal charges against the students.
“Then there was another picture of a young man. You could see his eyes and he had a banner across here and it said something about a bomb tomorrow at school,” said Carlsen.
At Hillcrest High School, police received an anonymous tip from a student using the Safe UT app saying they saw another student with a gun in the parking lot. Officers located the suspect and did not find a weapon or any other witnesses.
The school district said that in response, they’ll have extra police at school Tuesday to “add a layer of support.”
From July 2020 to June 2021, 256 total threat tips came in on the Safe UT app.
“There’s been threats across the state that you don’t hear about on the news that are being vetted and caught before anything happens,” said Ollerton.
Utah students, parents and educators can report safety concerns or chat with a licensed counselor anytime or any day anonymously.
“Just the ability to submit information confidentially and be able to say, ‘Here’s the information I have’ and not get asked who you are goes a long way,” said Ollerton.