Promoting Safety in Community College Districts

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As both educators and employers, Community College Districts are charged with providing a safe working environment for its employees and a safe learning environment for its students.  Thus, in the community college context, issues concerning workplace safety are compounded by student safety issues and both must be considered when developing effective strategies to prevent and respond to safety threats on campus.

This can be a daunting task.  Community Colleges - by their very nature - are open and public environments that accept all comers.  Indeed, their mission includes encouraging and supporting a diverse community where people from a wide range of backgrounds in terms of culture, language, age, politics, class, religion, race and gender come together.  Community colleges play a role in local communities, by both hiring employees and enrolling students who attend full-time, part-time or intermittently.  Thus, the process of training and educating the community about cultural fluency, mutual respect, anti-harassment policies, and conduct codes (i.e. the building blocks for violence prevention) is a never-ending process.  It also means that, in this ever-changing environment, developing and implementing mechanisms for identifying and responding to students or employees exhibiting disturbing behaviors, is especially challenging.  Further, unlike K-12 districts - which also face the unique challenges associated with creating safe educational environments - community colleges work almost entirely with an adult population.  Thus, they do not have the same opportunity to involve parents or guardians when students act out or appear to be in crisis.

College campuses are generally safe places.  Nonetheless, as an employer, and as an educational institution, public agencies are still at risk, and have a legal obligation to provide a safe workplace for its employees and a safe learning environment for its students.  As we all learned in April of 2006, even the safest of places can be the scene of horrible and unimaginable violence.  On April 16, 2006, Seung Hui Cho, "an angry and disturbed student," killed 32 students and faculty on the Virginia Tech campus and wounded 17 more, before killing himself. (Report of the Review Panel (August 2007)) Shortly after the massacre, the governor of Virginia appointed a review panel to investigate and evaluate the events leading up to the tragedy and the responses to the incident by University and law enforcement personnel.  The Panel conducted more than 200 interviews and reviewed thousands of pages of documents, which resulted in 21 major findings and 70 recommendations to colleges, universities, mental health providers, law enforcement agencies, and state and local governments.  The recommendations relevant to safety on community college campuses will be highlighted throughout this workbook.

State and federal laws require that educational institutions plan and prepare for all types of disasters to ensure the safety of the students, faculty and staff.  Compliance with federal and state emergency planning mandates will help community colleges be better prepared to respond to emergencies and crises that occur on campus. The Chancellor's Office launched the Disaster Resistant California Community Colleges (DRCC) program to support all 112 community colleges with establishing compliance with state and federal emergency requirements under the Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS) and the National Incident Management System (NIMS).  These programs require community colleges to conduct training for all faculty and staff proportionate to the role each individual will play in the college's emergency response plan to be in compliance with state and federal laws. The DRCC can help community colleges develop emergency response plans which integrate SEMS and NIMS requirements.

This workbook will, first and foremost, discuss proactive and preventive strategies for creating and maintaining safe community college campuses.  In addition, this workbook will provide information on how to appropriately respond to incidents of violence and/or disturbances when they do occur on campus, depending upon whether the perpetrator is a student, employee or outside third party.  Lastly, this workbook will discuss recent developments in the law including enhanced criminal penalties for crimes committed on or near educational institutions.

Topics Include:

  • Duty to Provide a Safe Work Environment
    • “Types” of Workplace Violence
    • Workplace Security Plan
    • Recording and Reporting Workplace Violence
    • Workplace Security Evaluations - Cal/OSHA Compliance Checklist
    • Investigating Assaults Involving Death or Serious Injury
    • Consultation Assistance to Employers
    • Supervisor and Employer Liability For Cal/OSHA Violations
  • Duty to Provide a Safe Educational Environment
    • California Education Code Requirements
    • Title IX Requirements
    • Clery Act Requirements
    • Mandated Reporter Obligations
  • Preventing Violence on Campus
    • Fostering a Culture of Inclusivity
    • Recognizing and Responding to Warning Signs
    • Best Practices
  • Responding to Imminent Threats and Violence, on Campus
    • Contact Campus Police, Local Law Enforcement & Other Emergency Response Agencies
    • Ensure the Safety of Students & Staff
    • Obtain Control Over the Situation
    • Restrict Access to School Premises
    • Obtaining Restraining Orders and Injunctive Relief
  • Recovering From an Incident
    • Review Follow-Up Response Procedures
    • Investigate Violent Acts
    • Determine Whether Discipline is Appropriate
    • Provide Counseling and Emotional Assistance for Students and Staff
    • Update Campus Safety and Security Data
  • Employer Civil and Criminal Liability
    • Liability to Those Injured on Campus
    • Third-Party Liability

This document is provided as a benefit to Liebert Library subscribers and cannot be shared outside of their organization. The information contained within is a template only and is not designed to address the specific and unique issues, internal rules, practices, and/or governing documents that might be in place at your organization. You should always consult with legal counsel prior to implementation of any documents.

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