The Canyons District Office of Public Communications has received statewide honors for its efforts to communicate with parents, teachers, students and the community at large following a fatal shooting near a Sandy elementary in June.
At the recent annual conference of the Utah Public Information Officers Association, the Canyons public-relations team of Jeff Haney and Kirsten Stewart received the award for the best communications in a major incident. The significant event was the June 6, 2017 domestic-violence situation that occurred blocks away from Brookwood Elementary just moments after classes let out for the day. It was the second-to-last day of school for the year.
The incident resulted in the slayings of a mother and her kindergarten-age child. The man who police say fired the weapon then committed suicide in the street.
“A fatal shooting in Sandy put intense pressure on the Canyons District communications team,” the state PIO organization said in its presentation of the award. “Yet, they performed with grace and professionalism.”
Haney and Stewart Immediately put into place the District’s established emergency-communications plan after hearing of the traumatic incident, which was witnessed by throngs of children who were walking home after school. It was also seen parents who were driving their children and neighbors who were outside enjoying the warm spring day.
While keeping the Board of Education and District administrators apprised of developments, Haney and Stewart quickly crafted and sent notifications to parents, updated the community via social media, issued statements to news reporters, wrote and disseminated talking points for principals and staff, coordinated with law enforcement, and worked with the principal and Crisis Counseling teams to provide appropriate information to parents and employees. The demand for information about the incident continued for about a week.
“This is a well-earned award,” Canyons Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe said. The response of the communications team “allowed our principals and crisis-response teams to do what was needed to support students and families, instead of being in front of the camera,” he said.