It’s the eyes that count when it comes to safe schools, officials say.
“When you have 2,000 kids, you have 2,000 sets of eyes, and that’s better than all the cameras you can install,” said Christopher Williams, spokesman for Davis School District.
The district has installed cameras inside and outside of many of its schools, as well as in many of the buses. These security cameras help, but it is the students who offer the most help when it comes to security at schools.
It was students who alerted Bountiful High School administrators last spring about two students who had the makings of a “Works” bomb.
The two students did detonate the bombs, but administrators and police knew who to search for after the explosions.
And it will be students who will help with the investigation of two small “Works” bombs that were set off on Syracuse High School’s football field in August, Williams said.
“Someone will talk. There is always going to be someone who knows something, and it will come out,” he said.
“Yes, cameras help us catch someone, but our best source is the kids. They know what is going on in the school.”
School resource officers agree.
Before the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado, where 12 students and one teacher were murdered, not every Top of Utah high school had a school resource officer.
That event changed how school districts viewed school safety.
Every high school in Weber, Ogden and Davis school district has a school resource officer. School districts pick up half of the police officer’s salary.
A school resource officer is assigned to either full-time or part-time status at junior high schools as well.
Weber School District spokesman Nate Taggart said the key to a safe school is being proactive.
A big part of that proactive stance is to have school resource officers who “are dedicated to know the kids and establish relationships with them.”
“Our school resources officers are amazing,” Taggart said.
According to several national studies, including one from the National Center for Education Statistics, schools have had to change how they do things since Columbine in order to keep students safe.
Students are more likely to report being threatened or injured with a weapon if they believe there is a caring adult who will listen. That adult can be a teacher, a staff member or a police officer.
Weber County Sheriff’s Deputy Chad Allen is a school resource officer at T.H. Bell Junior High School in Washington Terrace.
As he and administrators walk the hallways before and after school and during class breaks, students see the adults, “and they know we’re here,” Allen said.
It does not always stop the fights, but “it prevents most problems before they start,” he said.
Woods Cross Police Officer James Sheldon said the chief asset to school security is the “rapport you gain with students.”
Sheldon is in his fifth year as a school resource officer at Woods Cross High School.
There are 32 cameras installed inside and outside the school, but even with the electronic eyes, it is what the students see and hear that keep his school safe, Sheldon said.
“I make it a point to train students so they can identify issues or problems and how to respond when something happens,” he said.