University reps. meet in Tucson to learn ways to prevent violence on campus

University reps. meet in Tucson to learn ways to prevent violence on campus

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Since the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, colleges and universities around the country have realized they must learn to deal with, and try to prevent, more than just cheating by students.

So the Higher Education Case Managers Association, or HECMA, was formed.

Professionals from 68 universities met at the University of Arizona this week for the 6th Annual HECMA Roundtable.

HECMA president, Dr. Ashley Blamey, of the University of Tennessee, says the organization provides universities with information on best practices so the schools are prepared as they can be, and not simply reacting.

That's why Pima Community College (PCC) was invited to present "A Case Review of Pima Community College's Experience with Jared Loughner" at this year's HECMA Roundtable.

In 2011 former PCC student Jared Loughner opened fire outside a northwest side grocery store, killing six people and wounding 13 others, including then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Before the shooting, PCC had suspended Loughner because of behavioral issues.

He had attended classes at two of the college's Tucson campuses.

However, at the time, there was no communication component between campuses, or even between departments.

PCC Chief of Police Manny Amado says the college suspended Loughner when his threatening behavior became known.

Amado says, since the Tucson shooting, the college has initiated a more efficient system, including a database for all campuses and departments to report and keep track of potential problems.

PCC wants other schools to understand the importance of communication between everyone, from law enforcement all the way through faculty and administration, to try to prevent tragedies.

"I cannot say that it would've prevented Jared from doing what he did. I mean that would be unfair to say that.  I think, if we would've had that communication component, maybe sooner, there may have been earlier intervention and addressing the issue that he was having at the college," Amado says.

Amado was one of the PCC presenters at the HECMA conference Friday.

He says he believes Loughner still would have been suspended from PCC because of his behavior, only it might have happened sooner.

Amado says Friday's presentation actually is part of the dialogue Pima College will be rolling out at all its campuses.

He says it's an explanation of what happened when Loughner was at PCC, and what changes the college has made since then.

HECMA President Blamey says communication between universities is key too so they can share what works and what doesn't.

She says universities must deal with the whole spectrum, from supporting a student who has lost a family member, all the way up to dealing with someone who might be a danger to himself or others.

"Most of the work is on the sort of lower end of things, just helping people through difficult times. But the other aspect of the work is really dealing with critical situations in a timely and efficient manner," Blamey says.

She says with more information schools can make decisions that could prevent a tragedy.

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