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What We Can Learn from Pima

Duncan Says College Officials Acted Appropriately, But What Else Can Be Done for Troubled Students?

January 12, 2011

What We Can Learn from Pima

by Alexis Mattera

By now, you know what happened in Arizona on Saturday. You’ve heard about the innocent bystanders who lost their lives. You’ve been kept abreast of Representative Giffords’ condition. You’ve seen the shooter’s disturbing mug shot. But could this terrible occurrence been prevented? Secretary of Education Arne Duncan believes Pima Community College did all it could.

The shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, was a student at the community college until October, at which time he dropped out because the school told him he would need to undergo a psychiatric evaluation to keep attending. Dealing with worrisome students has long been an issue for colleges – the New York Times reported that schools remain ill-equipped to handle those exhibiting potentially violent warning signs, making it quite surprising some groups are lobbying for students’ rights to carry guns on campus – yet Duncan believes Pima Community College officials acted appropriately in their dealings with Loughner. "If I was the chancellor of that community college, I think that would have been my response," he told the Washington Post.

There’s no way administrators can 100-percent safeguard their institutions against violence but centralized efforts should be explored. There is typically no single person or department responsible for tracking the sorts of complaints that teachers and fellow students make about students like Loughner. And while schools don’t have the legal authority to force people into treatment against their will, more steps should be taken to get troubled individuals the help they need (Pima notified Loughner's parents that their son needed a mental examination to continue in school but not much else).

Do you think Pima Community College officials could have done more or do you, like Duncan, believe they handled the situation the best they could?


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