COC Makes Moves to Keep School Safe

by Jon Gonzalez, Staff Writer 440 views0

From the recent shootings at the University of Texas to the stabbing of 16-year old student at Hart High last week, school violence is an ever-present danger considering it generally comes without warning.

With this in mind, COC has a set of guidelines – as well as a training video on how to lockdown a classroom – for students and teachers to follow in the case of such an emergency.

The training video entitled “Lockdown” explains what to do in the case of a school shooter. The key components are to lock the doors, cover the windows and turn off the lights. School authorities, including the Campus Safety, are then required to contact the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department. Text messages and emails are also sent out automatically to students.

“Like most colleges, College of the Canyons has an emergency notification system,” said Michael Wilding, Vice President of Student Services. “Let’s say there’s a campus shooter, we would send messages to cell phones and emails saying ‘this is an emergency, stay out.’”

The majority of faculty and staff have been trained on how to handle an emergency, but the preparation has yet to hit most of the college’s students. According to Wilding, COC is planning a school-wide drill in either late 2011 or early 2012.

However, the big debate among the student population and staff is whether the on-campus officers are equipped enough for a school-shooting situation.

Officers currently carry tasers along with pepper spray and handcuffs, but do not carry firearms. The equipment is new as of this semester. But Wilding says it was important to take a step from no equipment to guns.

“We debated this for a pretty long time about whether or not we should from nothing to guns … but we haven’t felt the need to equip [campus safety] with weapons.”

Wilding stated that safe history of the school was a major reason for only employing campus safety patrol as opposed to a full-time police force. He noted that other regional colleges, such as Glendale Community College and Pasadena City College, currently employ on-campus police.

A poll of 100 students was taken Monday about whether they believed COC’s Campus Safety should carry firearms.

The results are as follows:
Yes: 18%
No: 57%
Undecided: 18%

Many of the students suggested that guns were unnecessary considering the lack of threat of a potential shooting. Some students also suggested installing help button stations – similar to those found at local Cal State Universities – that would send a potential danger alert to Campus Safety. The school currently offers students a “Campus Escort” program in which trained personnel help students with rides to their vehicles or classes from 6:30 p.m. until 10:30 p.m.

However, some of those polled were still in favor of campus officers carrying firearms.

“I think they should because you don’t know what people can really do, and just for everyone’s safety. I think girls would feel more comfortable if they would carry guns,” said Brittany Plante, a current student at COC.

The school offers regular self-defense classes free-of-charge to both students and the community.

However, Michael Wilding believes that Campus Safety carrying guns is likely inevitable.

“I suspect, personally, that in sometime in the future we will face this issue again … and that we might choose to arm our guys with weapons.”