SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California’s public colleges and universities have taken seriously the task of preparing for the threat of mass shootings, although decisions about how to do so are made by individual campuses, administrators and public safety experts said.
In the five years after the Virginia Tech massacre that left 32 people dead, the University of California has spent more than $17 million on enhancing security at its 10 campuses, spokeswoman Rebecca Trounson said.
The money has gone toward such measures as emergency alert systems, equipment and training for campus police departments, threat-assessment teams that review the behavior and actions of community members for potential risks, Trounson said.
Like UC, the California State University’s 23 campuses each have their own police departments with responsibility to develop and implement plans individually tailored to their size and location, system spokeswoman Toni Molle said.
“The CSU is a large system with a variety of campuses in unique settings and with unique needs, risks, etc.,” Molle said. “Each campus has their own specific plan and training programs vary depending on campus needs.”
The California Community College system, which with 113 campuses is the nation’s largest higher education system, does not currently require schools to have security or training plans for active shooters.
But Vice Chancellor for Communications Paul Feist said many of the state’s community college districts, a majority of which have their own police departments, have done so on their own.
The chancellor’s office also coordinated disaster preparedness drills that included active shooter scenarios with the help of a six-year, $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant, Feist said.
“The state Chancellor’s Office has historically never taken the lead in public safety administration or oversight at our 113 colleges,” he said. “Locally elected trustees and college management are the best qualified to make appropriate public safety decisions for their community.”
Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, a former trustee for the Los Angeles Community College District, sponsored a bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown this year that calls on the system to regularly update the emergency planning guidance it recommends for campuses and to include a section dealing with gunmen.
Santiago said he was motivated by what he saw as the under-involvement of campus officials who over-relied on local police and sheriff’s deputies to be ready for the worst.
He recalled an incident at one of the district’s nine campuses within the last two years in which a man carrying a suspicious-looking bag walked into a classroom from a parking lot, touched a pregnant woman and made a sudden gesture. No one in the class, including the instructor, knew what to do, he said.
“As society is threatened by new dangers, likewise community colleges have become threatened by these new dangers,” he said. “Obviously our primary mission is education, but any government agency has a responsibility to keep its constituencies safe.”
California has had four deadly college-related shootings in as many years. Oikos University, a private Christian school in Oakland, was the scene of the worst. In April 2012, a former student shot the college receptionist and six aspiring nurses.
Santa Monica College was next. A former student fatally shot his father and brother at home before making his way to the college, where a 15-minute rampage led to the deaths of three people. The gunman died during a shootout with police in the library.
Santa Barbara City College student Elliot Rodger killed six UC Santa Barbara students, including two roommates, last year during a chilling expression of rage in the off-campus community of Isla Vista.
And Sacramento City College’s campus was locked down for two hours last month after weapons were drawn during a verbal dispute near a baseball field on the edge of campus. One person was killed and two others wounded.
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