Campus safety can start with student action and understanding

Mariana Lima and Mariana Lima

By Mariana Lima
Contributor

The idea “it will never happen to me” never protected students from shooters when they attacked their classrooms. On the other hand, constant fear and panic on campuses do not stop gunmen from firing their guns.

After the Virginia Tech massacre, Constance M. Carroll, chancellor of San Diego Community College District assured in one e-mail that the college’s top priority is security and that City College has well-trained police officers available 24/7 in case of emergency.

“I don’t feel in danger, there is a pretty good (number of) security guards,” City student Eduardo Salgado said.

However, colleges are not safe from experiencing future massacres even if well secured because human beings can trigger violent behaviors unexpectedly. But the message school shootings send to college communities lies beyond violence.

Cindy Barton, a City College licensed clinical social worker, said that it is important that students “keep their ears open” to their classmates, and “reach out” for them if they show any sign of emotional distress. She also said that if a student is concerned and notices something is wrong with a classmate but does not feel comfortable enough to talk to the other person, the student should contact the health department regardless. According to Barton, the professionals from the department can create a plan of action to help the classmate in need and they are the ones who will talk to the person.

“I think the biggest mistake people come and make is to just avoid because they don’t know what to say or they just want to get away from it, they wanna deny it. The most important thing that you can do is tell somebody, ask for help,” Barton said. “We need to all watch out for each other.”

Barton also stated the college can help students who might suffer from depression, having suicidal or other criminal thoughts. She added that City is “proactive” and has a model “that is way ahead the curve” because of its faculty, full-time staff members and clinicians combined with a model of efficient therapy.

“I would urge any student who is concerned about their friends or somebody else to come and talk to us,” Barton said. “Come and talk to us in the mental health services. It’s confidential, free and we can help them to figure out how they wanna deal with this problem.”

In 2002, the United States Secret Service and the Department of Education released the “School Threat Assessment,” a guide about how to create safe school environments and how to manage threatening situations, aimed to serve mainly the school communities. According to the guide, “targeted school violence is arguably only the tip of the iceberg of pain, loneliness, desperation, and despair that many students in this nation’s schools deal with on a daily basis.”

In addition, that 2002 security guide stated that “silence may be downright dangerous” and reported a writing of a 17-year-old student who killed himself after attacking other people at his school.

“They want me to open up, express myself. Quite a funny notion, ironic! If someone had helped me do that several years ago, I probably would have turned out okay,” the student said.

Barton explained that specific behaviors might be a danger to others and to themselves when on campus and it should be reported to the mental health department and campus police office. For instance, when students threat others in any form, either written or verbal including discussions in class.

Although infrequent compared to other crimes, school shootings have been repeating themselves with some frequency in the last two decades and colleges are not free from hosting future massacres even if well secured. If school shootings keep on happening, this repetition conveys a message that students have been failing to connect and communicate, many times ignoring one another.

“My first impression of him was that he was really shy and introvert. I just thought he was very lonely, and that concerned me a little bit. I didn’t know (he was depressed and suicidal), I wished somebody had told us, maybe I would have been more careful, or be more interested in him,” said Karan Grewall, who was a former roommate of the Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho in an interview to Fox News Channel.

To set an appointment with the City student mental health services call at (619) 388-3450 or visit http://www.sdcity.edu/studentresources/healthservices/mentalhealth.asp