Violence in Arizona serves as cautionary tale for other schools

Violence in Arizona serves as cautionary tale for other schools

By James Tutten
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Security and safety are everyone’s responsibility in a free society, where we maintain personal freedoms, while also looking out for the well being of others. The recent tragic shooting in Arizona can teach a lesson in security and personal empathy here at Valencia.

Jared Loughner, the suspected Arizona gunman, recently attended Pima Community College, a campus smaller in size, but similar to Valencia in many ways. Procedures dealing with security are handled by vice-president of Security and Safety, Tom Lopez, who oversees all four Valencia campuses. Lopez strongly believes when dealing with safety “nothing can happen without information; knowledge is power.”

For any on-campus disturbance, reports are filed with the campus dean, and if needed, students are removed from the area and taken to speak directly with the dean, or law enforcement if required. The dean of students will then form a review of the instance and individual on a case-by-case basis. If the disruptive person is not a student at Valencia, or a guest, they are asked to leave school grounds and can be forced off property by security if necessary. Lopez points out that “if an individual is a danger to themselves or anyone else, Florida’s 72-hour Baker Act law can be applied for any type of assessment through law enforcement or mental evaluation.”

Politically motivated violence has been seen in Florida over the past few months, with death threats against former congressman Alan Grayson during his reelection campaign in November. In December, the near tragic scene when the Panama City School Board meeting was held hostage by a deranged gunman. As a precaution, any congressperson or special guests attending events at Valencia receive elevated security protection as part of their visit.

Several students at Valencia’s Osceola campus personally encountered a disturbing individual yelling at everyone in the front parking area in late September. He was yelling anti-religious rants that offended many students, some of whom threatened the disturbed person in response. This person then abruptly reached into a bag he was carrying and presented papers with wild, incoherent scribbling over the pages.

Despite several threats and other actions, this individual went on for several minutes without any regard for his personal safety. A disturbed person has the potential to cause harm to others when they have no regard for their own safety.

Nathan Hicks, in charge of security at the Osceola campus, had no record of this event because it went unreported to his office, but stated “in the past, the public Lynx buses that connect to all the campuses have brought disruptive individuals that are then dealt with by security.”

There are programs in existence – and in the works – all focused on helping Valencia students remain safe and informed with alert stations throughout all campuses, telephones with a quick connection to security, and off-duty police officers during peak hours that maintain radio connections with security and law enforcement dispatch. All of these systems and precautions have been in effect for several years at Valencia.

“Valencia Alert” is a security and crisis alert system that sends important messages via e-mail, text message to mobile phones, and pagers. Alerts are sent in the event of any dangerous situations, or severe weather related warnings. Anyone interested can sign up and select which alert system they prefer at http://www.alert.valenciacc.edu.

There is also talk of a smart phone application in the future where students can send in alerts and warnings, via text message. For now, any student that feels a need to discuss disturbances or unruly behavior can speak to any faculty member, security personnel, or anyone they feel comfortable with on campus. Report’s are filed in the security office and can remain anonymous.

Reach out to any friend or classmates you believe are in a troubled emotional state. The suspected gunman in Tucson is a young former college student that used the same social media sites most young people use today. These websites are often used by individuals to reach out to others, even when dealing with personal problems.

Anyone that has personal issues that affect their life can be referred to mental health professionals. A small effort to reach out and help someone in need can have larger impacts and help avoid or prevent dangerous or harmful situations like the Tucson tragedy.