New River Community College, which is located near Virginia Tech, the site of mass killing in 2007, remains closed today after a shooting Friday that wounded two women at a branch campus in a shopping mall. Neil Allen MacInnis, an 18-year-old student at the college, has been charged with wounding Taylor Sharpe, a part-time college employee, and Kristina Bousserghine, a first-year student. Both victims are in stable condition.
Students say the gunmen tried to lure them out of hiding by pretending to be the police, reports the Roanoke Times.
Clara Keller of Blacksburg was working in a computer lab when she heard a gunshot, a woman screaming and then more gunshots. She hid beneath a desk with four classmates.
“I heard him go into a classroom, and then four more shots,” she said.
Then, another scream.
“He came into our room,” Keller said. “He said, ‘I can hear you. I know you’re in here. Come out.’ I was thinking, ‘He’s going to come looking for us.’ ”
. . . The shooter called out “Help, help!” as he walked, Keller said, as if to lure people out of hiding. At another point, he yelled, “It’s the police!”
“The guy’s a terrible actor,” Keller said. “I knew it was just a matter of holding still as long as possible until the real police got there.”
About five minutes after the shooting started, MacInnis surrendered to an off-duty security guard and two police officers.
A poster who called himself Neil MacInnis wrote about using a shotgun minutes before the shooting, writing “Anyways this is not a highscores game but actually a lesson (that’s why I’m at school).” He also linked to his e-portfolio, which says he’s a computer graphics and web design major who works part-time at Old Navy and has a brown tabby cat named Mowww.
Community colleges “may face particular challenges in preventing” tragedies, writes Scott Jaschik on Inside Higher Ed.
Many colleges have opened branch campuses that rely on the facility’s security force rather than campus police.
Community college counselors have large caseloads and many responsibilities. Seven in 10 community colleges now have threat assessment teams, according to a survey by the American College Counseling Association’s Community College Task Force.
At Brookhaven College near Dallas, a team of volunteers tries to assess potential threats, before it’s too late, reports Community College Times.
The college realized the need in October 2010, when Dallas police received a report that a student, possibly carrying a gun, had threatened suicide on campus. The student was found alive and at home and was taken to a hospital for a mental health evaluation. But it turned out the student had told an adjunct instructor he was feeling suicidal and the instructor hadn’t reported it.
“We felt like we needed to have some sort of system in place to address when students are dealing with mental health issues, as well as other issues that could hinder the safety of students,” said Oscar Lopez, vice president of student services.
The CARE Assessment Team, which includes Lopez, counselors, health professionals, college police, faculty and the human resources director, was formed to provide a “caring, confidential program of identification, intervention and response.”
Referrals can come from anyone —a professor disturbed by a student’s writings, or a student worried about something posted on a friend’s Facebook page.
Brookhaven also recently purchased Kognito at Risk software, which helps train employees to identify and refer students in mental distress. And soon, the college will launch an online referral form, allowing people to make confidential referrals more easily.
Each referral triggers an assessment of the student’s mental health and the potential risk to others. In most cases, the student is referred to the counseling center or disability services. ”If it’s determined that the student is a potential threat, the student will be directed to have a psychological evaluation with a mental health professional and possibly asked to withdraw from the college until he or she has gotten the needed help,” reports Community College Times.
Charges have been dropped against Carlton Berry, 22, who was accused of shooting two people at Lone Star College in Houston. Another student, Trey Foster, has been charged with the shooting.
Berry wants an apology from Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia.
“All I know is, I’m a good person. I don’t run in gangs, I’m not a gang member,” Berry said Tuesday at a news conference in front of the New Black Panthers headquarters. “I go to school to better my future, and that’s what I intend to do from now on.
Berry said he was walking with Foster, a friend since high school, when he began arguing with Jody Neal, 25, who’s in a GED program on campus. Foster allegedly fired 10 shots, wounding Neal, Berry and a maintenance man who was passing by. Law enforcement officials originally thought Berry had shot himself accidentally.
“Due to the highly charged and high-profile controversy involving this student, Seminole State has taken the unusual but necessary step this week to withdraw Mr. Zimmerman from enrollment,” according to a statement from the college. “This decision is based solely on our responsibility to provide for the safety of our students on campus as well as for Mr. Zimmerman.”
Zimmerman, 28, claimed he shot in self-defense after following the teenager, who was walking to a family friend’s house in a gated community. In response to death threats, Zimmerman has gone into hiding.
Guns on campus worry college officials, reports Community College Times. More states are letting students apply for permits to carry concealed weapons on campus.
Colleges are adopting different policies said Ada Meloy, attorney for the American Council on Education, and J.P. Sherry, general counsel for the Los Rios Community College District in California, at the Community College Conference on Legal Issues at Valencia College (Florida).
Utah and Mississippi allow concealed weapons on college campuses, as long as the carrier has a permit. Conversely, 20 states, including Florida, currently prohibit guns on public college campuses, even for people with concealed weapons permits.
In “empty holster protests” in several states, students have demanded the right to carry guns for self-defense. “This problem is not going to go away,” Meloy said. “It’s only going to get bigger.”
Arizona is debating a bill that would let adults with permits carry guns on state university and community college campuses.
“Gunna be at West Hall,” a Lanier Technical College texted, trying to tell a friend he was going to West Hall High School in Hall County, Georgia. But the smart phone’s auto-correct feature changed the message to “Gunman to be at West Hall.”
Then the student misdialed, sending the message to a stranger. That person called 911. The college and the high school were locked down for two hours till police determined the texter was armed only with his phone.
North Carolina community colleges will be able to bar students who appear to pose an “imminent and significant threat,” reports the News-Record.
Disabilities groups and the American Civil Liberties Union say they’ll monitor how the policy is applied. They say they worry people with mental and physical disabilities will be hurt.
In response to the Tucson shooting rampage by a former student with symptoms of schizophrenia, community college officials are trying to figure out how to identify and help unstable and potentially dangerous students, reports the Los Angeles Times.
He wears stained and dirty clothing and his grades are sliding. His mid-term essay contains disturbing passages and his behavior in class is causing increasing concern.
The student is showing clear signs of psychological distress, and the question for instructors and staff at Santa Monica College is how to approach him. Should they try to talk to him, refer him to counseling or call campus police?
The student exists only in cyberspace, as part of an online training program designed to help college staffers practice ways to deal with troubled students.
The Tucson “tragedy has drawn attention to the increased demand for mental-health and crisis-intervention services on campuses throughout the country,” notes the Hechinger Report. But few community colleges provide mental-health services.
It’s easy to say Pima Community College should have “done something” to get Jared Loughner into mental-health treatment, writes Community College Dean. But it’s remarkably hard to do more than suspend a student who appears to be mentally ill.
Like many, my college established a Threat Assessment Team after the Virginia Tech massacre. The team has faculty, counselors, student affairs leadership, an academic dean, and the head of security on it. It examines cases brought to it by concerned members of the college community about people on campus who are exhibiting signs of being dangerous.
. . . Okay, a student is pale and withdrawn, young, male, socially awkward, sometimes angry, and frequently in his own world. Is he dangerous or just weird? How do you know? That same student writes a paper in which he admits fantasizing about buying an Uzi, driving to the worst part of town, and “doing some justice.” (I’m describing a student I had in one of my classes about ten years ago.) Is he a mass murderer in the making, or just someone who has watched way too many action movies? How do you know?
It’s easier in Arizona than in most states to get a judge to order a mental-health evaluation. College officials, the sheriff’s department or Loughner’s parents could have done it. If they had, it probably would have saved the lives of six people. But what’s clear in hindsight is not so clear at the time.
A former student has sued Brooklyn College charging she spent two weeks in a psychiatric hospital after reporting suspicions that her roommate or landlord had planted a video camera in her bedroom.
The new lawsuit alleges that when (Sophia) Eze went to Brooklyn College’s security office to voice her suspicions, a college psychological counselor was summoned. The counselor asked her a “series of personal questions pertaining to her psychological state of mind,” the suit said, including whether she was suicidal, heard voices or ever suffered from mental illness.
The lawsuit said that Ms. Eze answered all the questions in the negative, but that the counselor called an ambulance anyway and that Ms. Eze was “forcibly led into an ambulance.”
Eze already has won $110,000 in a lawsuit against the psychiatric hospital.
Few community colleges have psychiatrists on staff, notes Inside Higher Ed.
Fearing Jared Loughner was dangerously disturbed, Pima Community College officials banned him from campus until he could produce a mental-health clearance. But the college “took no steps to mandate that he have a psychiatric evaluation, which in Arizona is easier than in many states,” notes the New York Times. Could the college have done more to get Loughner into treatment before the shooting that left six people dead and a congresswoman fighting for her life?
The college has released records of Loughner’s run-ins with instructors and campus police. A number of instructors, administrators, students and plice officers were afraid he’d become violent.
His record of outbursts — and a video accusing the college of “genocide” and “torture” — should have triggered an involuntary evaluation, said Laura J. Waterman, the clinical director of the Southern Arizona Mental Health Corporation.
“Where does it reach a level where you say this person shouldn’t be a part of any community and we have a responsibility to do something about that?” she said. The clinic, which offers walk-in psychiatric crisis care regardless of a patient’s ability to pay, is one of the agencies Pima students are referred to when they need mental health services, including students who have been suspended like Mr. Loughner.
It appears Loughner never sought or received mental health care, the Times reports.
Pima has introduced policies to deal with disturbed students — similar to ones that swept campuses across the country after several deadly shootings, including the killing of 32 at Virginia Tech in 2007.
Last year Pima overhauled its procedure for campus disruptions, creating a team of senior officials to identify students who pose a threat to themselves or others. The team began meeting the same month that Mr. Loughner was suspended.
Suspending Loughner may have pushed him over the edge, isolating him even further from reality. But Pima Community College has no mental-health center on campus. It doesn’t monitor its students the way a residential college can.
Still, Arizona law lets any concerned person apply for a court-ordered mental evaluation, which can lead to mandated treatment. While Stella Bay, the college’s police chief, said Loughner didn’t meet the “imminent danger” standard, only “some evidence of danger” is needed, according to Waterman.
Since the weekend shootings, the number of applications for such evaluations at Ms. Waterman’s clinic has increased, she said, presumably because of widespread awareness of the issue now.
In fact, Ms. Bay called in a case on Monday about a student at Pima who threatened to cause harm on campus, according to Ms. Waterman.
The police brought the student to a hospital for an evaluation.
In addition to remedial math, where Loughner insisted that the number 6 is really 18, he took a jumble of courses, including poetry, public speaking, sign language, Bible studies and yoga.
His Pilates instructor, afraid of Loughner’s hostile reaction to her plans to give him a B grade, asked a police officer to monitor the class.