Youth suicides in Utah increase by 141.3 percent

The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) announced today, Nov. 30, that suicides among Utah youth aged 10-17 from 2011 to 2015, increased 141.3 percent, compared to an increase of 23.5 percent nationally.

Suicidal ideation and attempts among Utah youth also increased during this time period. In Summit County, youth suicide attempts increased by 3 percent (826 youth).

The UDOH requested help from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to better understand the factors leading to this increase.

A team of Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) officers from the CDC was deployed to Utah to conduct an independent epidemiologic investigation, also known as an Epi-Aid, of this urgent public health problem. The Epi-Aid team worked closely with staff at the UDOH to analyze data from seven major data sources to better determine trends, common precipitating factors for suicide, and risk and protective factors for suicidal behaviors unique to Utah youth.

“None of these data sets could have provided such a comprehensive picture of what is happening alone,” said Michael Friedrichs, epidemiologist with the UDOH. “Our investigation showed that suicide is complex and youth can experience multiple risk and protective factors. No single behavior or risk factor could explain all the reasons for the increase we’ve seen.”

From 2011 to 2015, 150 Utah youth aged 10-17 died by suicide, the majority of which were aged 15-17 years (75.4%), male (77.4%), and non-Hispanic white (81.3%). More than a third (35.2%) of youth who died by suicide had a mental health diagnosis and nearly a third (31.0%) were depressed at the time of their death.

“We continue to see the critical importance of addressing mental health concerns both in relation to suicide deaths and suicidal ideation and attempts,” said Kimberly Myers, suicide prevention coordinator at the Utah Department of Human Services. “Mental health treatment can and does work. Suicide is preventable and we need to continue to promote better access to care for those struggling with suicidal thoughts.”

Those experiencing suicidal thoughts can reach out for free, confidential help 24/7 by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visiting  The SafeUT Crisis Text & Tip Line app is also available for download. Suicide prevention resources for LGBTQ youth are available at

In addition to mental health concerns, family relationship problems, other forms of violence such as bullying at school and electronic bullying, substance use, and psychological distress were common risk factors in youth suicides. However, supportive family, community, and peer environments were protective against suicidal ideation and suicide attempts.

“Families, schools, neighborhoods, and communities at large must become safeguards against suicidal thoughts for youth,” said Cathy Davis, suicide prevention coordinator with the Utah State Board of Education. “Including youth in decisions that affect them, setting clear expectations and rules, ensuring youth are able to ask for and receive help when needed, giving them opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities, and providing a safe place where youth live, learn, and play can all help prevent suicides.”

Additional findings showed that among those youth who died by suicide:

  • 55.3% experienced a recent crisis within two weeks of the death (family relationships and dating partner problems were the most common recent crisis)
  • 23.9% disclosed their intent to die within one month prior to their death
  • 20.5% had a history of cutting or had evidence of recent cutting
  • 12.6% experienced family conflicts as a result of restriction to technology use or that resulted in a restriction to technology, such as having a mobile phone, tablet, laptop, or gaming system being taken away by a parent or guardian
  • Of the 40 cases that had information on the decedent’s sexual orientation, six (15.0%) were identified as sexual minorities

The Epi-Aid team also compared the three most commonly implemented suicide prevention programs in Utah schools – QPR, Hope Squads, and Hope for Tomorrow – to national recommendations for suicide prevention. None of the three programs have been rigorously evaluated for effects on suicidal behavior, although findings from less rigorous evaluation show some preliminary positive results.

The CDC made the following recommendations based on these findings:

  • Increase access to evidence-based mental health care for youth
  • Strengthen family relationships
  • Promote connectedness within the home, peer, school, and community environments
  • Identify and provide support to youth at risk of suicidal behaviors
  • Prevent other forms of violence among youth
  • Reduce access to lethal means
  • Teach coping and problem solving skills
  • Consider comprehensive and coordinated suicide prevention programs that address multiple risk and protective factors simultaneously
  • Conduct ongoing comprehensive evaluation of suicide prevention programs

Suicide is a complex behavior with multiple risk and protective factors. “No one prevention strategy will work to prevent all suicides. However, implementing comprehensive, coordinated prevention programs will be effective and likely reduce suicidal behaviors among Utah youth,” said Myers.

To get involved in suicide prevention efforts in Utah or to find a suicide prevention training near you, visit

A three-page summary report of the findings is available at The complete CDC investigation report is available at

Trailside Mileage Club logs 2,924 miles so far this year

The 429 members of Trailside Elementary’s Mileage Club have already logged 2,924 miles so far this year. On Nov. 21, the students logged 140 miles, despite the rain and the wind.

The program, sponsored by the school’s PTO, is a running/walking club that encourages students to get exercise during their lunch recess. The PTO encourages teachers, parent volunteers, and younger siblings to join in the run. Some 46 students have already run more than 13 miles and are considered “All Stars.”

“The amazing Jess Lerner moved to Park City this past summer from a school in Colorado that had a Mileage Club. After becoming our PTO vice president of Health and Wellness, she introduced the idea to us,” said Megan Luckan, co-PTO president at Trailside this year with Melanie Smith. “We were so taken with the idea of fostering continued group activity at recess, and the physical and mental health benefits of the exercise, that our PTO Board voted unanimously to have her start it.”

Parent volunteers help set up and take down, cheer runners on, hand out awards and track laps.

The Mileage Club offers students the opportunity to build self-esteem, improve their health, and experience their own personal power. Based on a non-competitive philosophy, the Mileage Club focuses on the completion of both personal and collaborative goals.

This is the last week of the Mileage Club, with runs planned for Tuesday and Thursday (Nov. 28 and 30), from 11-12:30 p.m. Once students have completed four laps they receive a charm. This week’s charm is a snowman.

PCSD closing all schools to open enrollment for 2018-19

The Park City School District Board of Education voted Nov. 21 to close all its schools to open enrollment for the 2018-19 school year. No new out-of-district students will be accepted next year. The board made the decision to maintain program offerings while holding class sizes to manageable levels.

Out-of-district students who are currently attending PCSD schools will be allowed to remain within the school system, but if they are moving from one school to another in 2018-19, they will need to submit an open enrollment application.

PCSD employees will continue to be allowed to register their children in PCSD schools.

The district currently has 168 out-of-district students attending its schools, 33 of which are children of employees.


Board Meeting Summary

Nov. 21, 2017 | Regular Session

New Board Member Appointed

The board appointed Erin Grady as the new board member for District 5, replacing Julie Einhausen who will step down Feb. 5, 2018.  Grady has lived in Park City for 34 years and currently serves as co-president of the PTA at Parley’s Park Elementary. She is a board member of PC READS and the Figure Skating Club of Park City. For 12 years she served as communications manager for Deer Valley Resort.  

Closing Schools to Open Enrollment

The board voted to close all PCSD schools to open enrollment for the 2018-19 school year. Out-of-district students currently attending PCSD and moving to a different school in 2018-19 will need to submit an open enrollment permit. No new out-of-district students will be accepted in the district next school year.

Superintendent’s Report

-Superintendent Ember Conley reported on her visit to the Western States Resort Superintendent Conference in Telluride, Colo. Participants discussed mental health, affordable housing for staff, bonding, student incentive programs, and staff recruiting.

-The Superintendent said the district is currently evaluating three certified educator evaluation systems, and is beginning Open Office Hours every other month starting Nov. 29 from 2:30-4 p.m. in the Board Rooms.

-Dr. Conley reported that the administration has reviewed protocols and policies related to the district’s emergency plan and is making improvements to the existing plan.

PCEA Report

Ben Kahn, representing the Park City Education Association, said the association’s membership has grown to 276 members, an increase of 36 this year. He said PCEA has an active interest in supporting provisional teachers, retaining excellent employee, and adopting an objective and equitable certificate evaluation system.  Kahn said PCEA is anxious to clear up lingering issues of off-contract pay and to have a voice at the negotiating table.

Communications Report

-Melinda Colton, Director of Communications, noted the newsroom blog has moved to the district website. After Thanksgiving it will be publicized to parents and the community.

-PCSD Chat was launched Oct. 25 and texts were sent to 5,345 parents. Each was asked to rate the district communications on a scale of 0-10.  With a response rate of 67.4 percent, the overall rating was 8. In addition, the district received 1,799 communication compliments and/or suggestions for improvement.

-Colton is working with AtlasRTX to develop a texting system that can text communications to parents faster.

-Eric Esquivel, Latino Outreach specialist, provided the Board with a written report of the the Latino communications efforts, by school.

Budget Discussion

Business Administrator Todd Hauber reviewed the fiscal year 2019 budget considerations with the board, including the anticipated tax increase identified in last year’s budget cycle.

Safety and Health Updates

Dr. Conley said emergency procedures will be updated to include a clear protocol for students staff housed in portable classrooms. She commended law enforcement for its quick action and arriving at Kearns Campus schools within five minutes of a recently reported incident. This incident showed the need for clear communication to students who are moving between buildings on the Kearns Campus. Staff need additional training, and technology needs to be updated in parts of the high school. She said students need to be trained to text appropriate information to their parents.  Our emergency posters need to be posted in every classroom in PCSD schools, both in English and Spanish, and a smaller postcard version will be printed to give to visitors in the building. Board President Andrew Caplan suggested the board discuss hiring a consultant to look over PCSD’s safety protocols and assist staff with additional training and drills. The superintendent said she has already reached out to three consultants to see what services they can offer the district.

Review Safety Policies

The board asked that district safety policies be updated to include specific penalties and repercussions for staff who fail to follow proper protocols. Board member Julie Eihausen asked the board to be careful about any punitive action and to make sure there is balance. Caplan said if the board is going to ask this of employees, it needs provide proper training.  Board member Petra Butler said we need to hire staff who make good sound judgments and said the district does not want to be in a situation where an administrator doesn’t know what to do.  Board Vice President JJ Ehlers requested substitute teachers also be trained on emergency protocol and safety procedures.

Master Planning Consultant

The board approved the hiring of Collaborative Learning Network to guide the district on the process for master planning. A committee comprised of a board member, community member, and business administrator reviewed RFPs and submitted a recommendation.

Policies for Posting

The board approved posting the following policies for review:

-Policy 3005: School Community Councils

-Policy 7015: Alcohol & Drug Free Workplace

-Policy 7171: Licensed Public Employees Personal Reporting of an Arrest

Public Comment

-Ann Futch asked the board why the district has not clarified its decision planning process and improved communication with staff. She was a member of the 2015 Teachers Survey subcommittee that made recommendations for improvement to the district.

-David Hickman reported his daughter’s class at McPolin Elementary was sent back outside to their portable classroom during the lockout. He wants the district to acknowledge its mistakes with the recent incident and encouraged more training and drills.

Board Approves Updates to Strategic Plan 

Based on feedback from the community, parents, and employees, the board approved the following updates to the district’s Strategic Plan—2018-2022:

Mission: The mission of Park City School District is to inspire and support all students equitably to achieve their academic and social potential.

Vision: Park City School District is student-centered​ ​with a focus and emphasis on the whole child.  Our students are safe, supported, engaged, challenged, and healthy.


-Academic​ ​Success: We are committed to engaging all students to reach their full potential no matter where they are in their academic journeys.

-Leadership: We are committed to continuous development, accountability, and transparency.

-Excellent​ ​Personnel: We are committed to hiring the best and the brightest staff in a transparent and fair manner.

-Communication: We are committed to communicating with all stakeholders in an open, timely, and consistent manner.

-Community​ ​Alliances: We are committed to a culture of collaboration with our community partners.

Board approves Strategic Plan updates for 2018-2022

Last night, Nov. 21, the Board of Education approved updates to the district’s Strategic Plan’s mission, vision, values and goals for 2018-2022.  The plan includes the following:

OUR MISSION: The mission of Park City School District is to inspire and support all students equitably to achieve their academic and social potential.

OUR VISION: Park City School District is student-centered with a focus and emphasis on the whole child — our students are safe, supported, engaged, challenged, and healthy.


Academic Success: We are committed to engaging all students to reach their full potential no matter where they are in their academic journeys.

Leadership: We are committed to continuous development, accountability, and transparency.

Excellent Personnel:  We are committed to hiring the best and the brightest staff in a transparent and fair manner.

Communication: We are committed to communicating with all stakeholders in an open, timely, and consistent manner.

Community Alliances: We are committed to a culture of collaboration with our community partners.


Strategic Goal 1 (Academic Success): Develop the potential of every student through data-driven and best learning practices to be academically successful and prepared for life beyond graduation. Provide safe, optimal and equitable learning environments for all students and staff.

Strategic Goal 2 (Leadership): Provide district wide leadership that exhibits transparency, clarity and accountability at all times and in all situations.

Strategic Goal 3 (Excellent Personnel): Create a culture of respect for all employees through recruiting, retaining, and providing professional development, while building the district’s leadership capacity.

Strategic Goal 4 (Communication): Continuously deliver efficient, effective, and transparent communication about the district.

Strategic Goal  5 (Community Alliances): Partner with families and the community for  the general well-being and education of our collective student base while including a culture of inclusiveness and respect for the rich diversity of our community.

New Board Member Appointed for District 5

Erin Grady

The Park City School District Board of Education appointed Erin Grady as the new board member for District 5.  She replaces Julie Einhausen who will step down Feb. 5, 2018.

Grady has lived in Park City for 34 years and currently serves as co-president of the PTA at Parley’s Park Elementary. She is a board member of PC READS and  the Figure Skating Club of Park City. For 12 years she served as communications manager for Deer Valley Resort.  

She was educated in Park City School District and is a graduate of Park City High. “My husband and I have chosen to raise our children in Park City and are committed to making it the best community for generations to come,” she said. “I want to look back  and know that I did my part in securing a positive future not only for my children but for the children of Park City as a whole.”

Grady earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Utah in mass communications, with a minor in business management.


Breakfast served at all PCSD schools

The Child Nutrition Services Department wants to remind parents that breakfast is served in all schools within Park City School District.

The School Breakfast Program is a national program that provides millions of children a nutritious morning meal each school day. School breakfast is a critical support for struggling families trying to stretch limited resources and provides children a significant portion of the nutrition they need to learn and be healthy, according to the Food Research Action Center.

“Kick off your child’s day on a positive note, start with a healthy breakfast that includes fresh fruits and whole grains,” said PCSD Director of Child Nutrition R.J. Owen.

For a nominal fee, students can eat breakfast in the cafeteria before school starts. Cost is $1.20 at elementary schools, $1.35 at Ecker Hill Middle, $1.45 at Treasure Mountain Junior High, $1.50 at Park City High, and reduced breakfasts are $.30.

Superintendent sends safety letter to parents

Superintendent Ember Conley emailed the following letter this morning to all parents in Park City School District outlining the safety procedures the district followed during Tuesday’s lockdown/lockout at schools on the Kearns Campus.

November 17, 2017

Dear Parents,

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we managed and evaluated our Kearns Campus lockdown/lockout earlier this week. Our staff had recently reviewed the district safety procedures with students after the University of Utah shooting; and our schools were prepared because of the safety drills and reviews we conduct throughout the year.  

We are appreciative of the Park City High student who saw the individual and immediately reported it to school authorities. Law enforcement was called and the Park City Police were able to apprehend the individual and secure all Kearns Campus schools within 40 minutes. We have asked the City Attorney to charge the individual to the full extent of the law.  Additionally, we have followed our school district policies and carried out necessary actions to prevent this occurring in the future with the individual.

In debriefing with the team, we did have an incident at McPolin Elementary where a few students were sent outside to their modular classroom during the lockout. This should not have occurred; and we have reviewed proper procedures with the principal and staff.  As a parent of an elementary aged student, I can imagine the fear and frustration that a few parents have felt.

As we always do, we debriefed Wednesday morning with our administrative team, who debriefed within their individual schools. We have also received feedback and suggestions from our PTOs, which are very helpful. We meet this next week with our district safety team and will make necessary modifications to our procedures.These modifications often times result in more practice of the protocol, addressing areas of deficiencies, and changing systems, like technology and communication. We are in the process of looking at different emergency notification systems and will alert parents when we have that in place.

As a reminder, in the event of a school or community emergency that requires school lockout (secure perimeter), lockdown(secure perimeter and inside building), shelter in place, closure, or evacuation status, information will be provided to parents as soon as possible. Our first priority is to work with law enforcement to notify our schools and employees so they can take the proper precautions with our students.

Parents, please allow emergency personnel full access to the emergency by remaining clear of the school. We are reviewing several emergency notification systems that offer state-of-the-art technology so we can notify you more immediately. Our first priority is to mitigate the situation at hand with staff and students. We will alert parents as soon as we possibly can. Until we have the alert system purchased and implemented, the fastest mode of communication is our district Facebook page and website. As always, we encourage students with cell phones to text their parents, stating that they are safe and to await notification from the school district and law enforcement.  

We reaffirm our commitment to student and staff safety and will do all we can to improve our protocol and our communication with parents.


Ember Conley, Superintendent



National Ability Center partnering with PCSD’s Transition College

The National Ability Center (NAC) is partnering with Park City School District to pilot a new program for special education students called “Exploring Jobs and Joy.”

The students exploring jobs are ages 18-22 in the Post High School Special Education Program, “Transition College,” which is housed at the Park Center Learning Academy.
NAC is continually exploring new opportunities for people of all abilities. The program’s goal is to provide another vocational training opportunity for our students in a familiar, friendly, and understanding environment. After working and training, students and staff will have the opportunity to participate in various social and leisure activities with their peers and co-workers. In addition, students will have the option to “bank” their hours throughout the next several months, and then “cash them in” to participate in various programs and activities offered at the NAC.

The students will be exploring a variety of jobs and also experiencing various social and leisure activities two times a week. Students will work in the NAC’s on-site Lodge in reception, and housekeeping and janitorial, before transitioning to a leisure development activity such as hiking, social games, and other low-equipment activities.

In many NAC volunteer opportunities, volunteers have the option of “building up” their hours to pay for a lesson in the programs they support. This principle will be applied to the “Exploring Jobs and Joy” cohort and will have a culminating equipment program (such as indoor climbing, snowshoeing, cycling, etc.) in March or April 2018.

The program officially begins in December, with orientations set for Nov. 29 and 30.