LA County

Push for Campus Preparedness in Event of Mass Shooting

In a program that's the first of its kind, mental health professionals will be on campus to identify at-risk students.

LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell and the Los Angeles Community College District announced a new safety plan Wednesday, which includes hiring seven additional sheriff's deputies to patrol campuses, in light of mass shootings like those at Santa Monica College and Umpqua College in Oregon.

After a gunman killed four people and injured several others before police killed him at Santa Monica College in 2013, community college leaders took a hard look at campus safety.

A team of experts came up with a plan to better protect students and teachers.

LA officials are looking at the lessons learned from these shootings and developing a plan to try and prevent future school violence.

"When it comes to mass violence — it's not a matter of if, but when and where," McDonnell said.

Another part of the plan is to bolster existing armed security officers.

In a program that's the first of its kind, mental health professionals will be on campus to identify at-risk students.

"We have to have resources to reach out to people in crisis and tell them, 'No, you don't need to pick up a gun and start shooting everybody in sight,'" Connie Rice, now a member of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Campus Safety, said.

Another issue past shootings have highlighted for the committee are creating better communication channels between schools and local law enforcement.

In the Santa Monica College shooting, gunman John Zawahri shot and killed his father and brother at their home before he traveled to the nearby campus. If college officials had been alerted, they might have been able to prepare for Zawahri's arrival.

Students and teachers will be given access to active shooter training.

Classrooms will be better secured with doors that lock from the inside, and technology experts will be brought in to identify internet threats.

"It's one less weight on top of us — knowing we're going to be a little safer here, and can focus more on school," Romel Lopez, an East LA College student, said.

A $2 million emergency management center is set to be built to coordinate resources between all of the colleges and local officials. 

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