Lessons Community Colleges Can Learn from the Arizona Shooting Tragedy

Lessons Community Colleges Can Learn from the Arizona Shooting Tragedy
The Arizona shooter was a community college student who had shown clear signs of trouble while on campus. What can community colleges learn from the tragedy in moving forward?
Photo Credit: White House
Ever since tragedy hit Virginia Tech in 2007, college campuses have been examining ways to make their schools safer for students and faculty. The more recent shootings in Arizona have further illustrated the need for intervention with disturbed students that could pose a potential danger to themselves or others. However, identifying the problem and finding a reasonable solution are two very different things. We will take a look at how some colleges are learning lessons from the Arizona tragedy and using what they learned to enhance safety on their campuses.

About Jared Loughner
 
Jared Loughner was a student at Pima Community College in Tucson. The college became concerned about some of Loughner's erratic behavior and eventually suspended him from the school. A few months after Loughner's suspension, he opened fire on a shopping mall in Arizona, wounding 13 and killing six people, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
 
According to a report at Google News, officials at Pima Community College released 51 pages of police documents on Loughner, depicting him as "creepy," "very hostile" and "having difficulty understanding what he did wrong in the classroom."
When Loughner released a YouTube video that called the college a "scam" and associated it with genocide, school officials told Loughner and his parents that he was no longer able to return to his classes. He would also need to obtain a report from a psychiatrist attesting to his mental health before coming back to the school campus again. Loughner never returned to Pima.
 
Using the Example
 
Many colleges across the country began instituting new prevention policies for potentially troubled students after the Virginia Tech tragedy. An article at Star Tribune reports that prior to Virginia Tech, about 20 schools had intervention teams that tracked students with possible issues. Since that time, about 1,600 schools have adopted some sort of student intervention policy.
One of the colleges that has an intervention team is Pima Community College, which may be the reason Loughner was identified and suspended from the school in a timely fashion. The school will not say definitely whether Loughner had been flagged by their team.
 
Prevalence of Problems at Community Colleges?
 
Community colleges are in a unique situation, as they can potentially bring in more unstable and mentally ill students because of their open door policies, according to the LA Times.  An Associated Press report cites statistics from an American College Counseling Association survey that show 44% of students who visit college counseling centers today have severe psychological disorders. Currently, one in every four students is on medication for a mental issue, as opposed to just 17% in 2000. With more students requiring additional assistance and community college budgets already stressed to the limit, some schools are trying to take matters in their own hands.
 
North Carolina's Admission Rule
 
North Carolina's community college board is progressing with a policy to refuse admission to any student who poses an "imminent and significant threat," according to WSOCTV. Megan Hoenk, board spokesman, told the news station, "[Our policy committee] wanted to provide colleges with the tools they needed to protect their students."
 
However, many in the community are concerned that the language in the policy is vague and difficult to clearly define. This could put students at a disadvantage in terms of admission or an appeals process if admission is denied on these grounds. Ellis Fields, director of the Mental Health Association of Central Carolinas, told WSOCTV that she understands the reasoning behind the policy, but is concerned about the policy itself. Fields said, "It concerns me because I think the wording is very vague. It begs the question of who's going to determine and define each of those words?"
 
Gun Bill in Arizona
 
Arizona legislators are considering a bill that would allow faculty and administrators on college campuses to carry concealed weapons. The bill was introduced by Rep. Jack Harper, R-Surprise, after an Arizona State professor told him he no longer felt safe on campus, according to a report at AZCentral.com. Harper filed his bill before the Tucson shooting, but the legislation is getting even more attention after the fact.
 
Not everyone is in favor of allowing guns on a college campus in Arizona. ASU professor Darryl Hattenhauer, who has undergone weapons training, told AZCentral.com, "There is a statistical correlation between those societies that have fewer guns and those that have fewer crimes." He called the bill "ludicrous," and said the state should focus more on prevention, like placing undercover police officers in classrooms.
 
Safety is a major concern on community college campuses today, and recent events have highlighted that concern. However, it remains to be seen if a consensus can be reached on just how to achieve a safer campus overall.

Additional Resources [+]
Sex Offenders: Banned on Community Colleges
Sex Offenders: Banned on Community Colleges
Community Colleges Contemplate Armed Security Guards on Campus
Community Colleges Contemplate Armed Security Guards on Campus
comments powered by Disqus
Recent Articles
Community College Review Diversity Report: Which Campuses are Most Diverse?
Community College Review Diversity Report: Which Campuses are Most Diverse?
What states are home to the most diverse and least diverse community colleges? In our exclusive diversity report, we analyze our data to determine how much diversity there is on community college campuses throughout the United States. In addition, learn about the benefits of attending a community college with a diverse student body.
More Accreditation Woes for California
The chancellor of the California Community College System, Bryce Harris, recently stated more than 20 community colleges in the state were at risk of losing accreditation. In the midst of problems with City College of San Francisco, some are beginning to question the credibility of the accreditors.
Washington Monthly Rates Community Colleges in 2013 Ranking
We take a look at the latest annual college rankings from Washington Monthly, which provide a list of the top community colleges in the country as well as four-year schools.

Get Your Degree!

Find schools and get information on the program that’s right for you.

Powered by Campus Explorer

College Policies

CAMPUS SAFETY

Community college campuses should be a safe place, and these policies, controversial or not, aim to achieve that goal. Schools have banned sex offenders from campus, allowed security to carry guns and installed surveillance cameras in an effort to keep students safe. Here we’ll cover the latest crime and safety policies in place on campuses across the country.