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After the terrible attack which happened in 2007, April many universities developed certain recommendations in order to prevent, intervene, respond, and deal with the possible effects of the campus violence. Why campus violence bothered and still does bother so many people, and what were the reasons for it, I will try to figure out in this essay.
On the 16th of April, 2007, a student with English major murdered 32 people, 17 were wounded. After this Seung Hui Cho, the delinquent, committed a suicide with the same gun. According to the news released afterwards, Cho fastened with chains the doors at the Norris Hall in order to prevent his victims from escaping. Most of the killed were students from a classroom building and a dormitory who, trying to flee, lied on the floor or jumped out of the windows in order to avoid the gunfire (Campus Violence and Mental Health, n. d).
University officials informed that there were about 10,000 students on campus when the incident occurred, but the security officers directed them to safe places with the help of the system of text-messaging (Sink, 2007)
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The investigation showed that Cho had severe mental disorder since adolescence. In 1999 he was diagnosed with depression and inability to speak in various social situations.
In the same year of 1999 Cho wrote a very interesting paper in the English class which listed some homicidal and suicidal thoughts based on the events which happened in Littleton at Columbine High School (a mass shooting). In the paper he stated that he "wanted to repeat Columbian", as the report of Virginia Tech Review Panel showed (Campus Violence and Mental Health, n. d).
In 2005 Cho was reported by his roommate to be inclined for committing a suicide and, therefore, was taken into custody by a police officer on the campus. Cho involuntarily went to the St. Albans Behavioral Health Center soon after that, was evaluated and almost at once discharged within 24 hours.
Since that time Cho's behavior was quite disruptive and anti-social, however, his school records did not give the slightest hint that he was inclined to behave so dangerously. Unfortunately, no special procedures existed in Virginia Tech which could prevent the coming massacre.
In 2008, February, Steven Kazmierczak entered a large lecture hall in DeKalb, Northern University of Illinois and fired from the gun on a class. Five people were killed and 18 - wounded. As in the previous case, the delinquent committed a suicide afterwards (Campus Violence and Mental Health, n. d).
Unfortunately, these are not the single cases: homicides and suicides continued to happen among students across our country.
Taking into consideration this highly negative, even brutal experience the university administrators, state policymakers, and experts on the problems with mental health are trying to develop the best solution without violating the privacy of students. Let us have a closer look what steps have already been undertaken and which strategies launched to eliminate the campus violence.
First of all, universities and schools have to understand that in order for their emergency plans against the violence of such kind to be more effective, they need to stick to the rules of the National Incident Management System which was created by the United States Department of Homeland Security. This Management System develops standardized procedures to prevent and respond to the similar cases.
According to the Missouri report, each campus is required to have at least one person who will coordinate such emergency operations and make sure that the senior staff of the school is educated and trained how to behave according to the procedures of the National Incident Management System (Kennedy, 2008).
Complying to this System, the North Carolina experts recommend to make sure that each campus has certain aid agreements with the outside agencies which could help out when a crisis situation occurs (Kennedy, 2008).
Virginia Tech University, where the main massacre occurred, spent $ 25,000 to establish the text-massaging alert system which is quite expensive as it charges 6 cents per each message. But the bitter experience makes people generous in their caution - this university still plans on installing a siren warning system which will cost $ 150,000 (Sink, 2007).
The University of Pennsylvania undertook some very tough steps - now security and police officers are on campus, everyone has to display their identification cards, and the main transportation traffic is closed (Mulhauser, 2001).
What we clearly see is that communication on a campus must be very-well spread and effective in order to carry out the emergency messages instantly. In our world of high technologies, such advancements as remote panic stations, cameras, proper designation and landscaping of safe areas, lighting, electronic card access, various key systems, etc. should not be left without attention.
The most effective job was done by the Florida's Gubernatorial Task Force to guarantee the safety on a campus (Campus Violence and Mental Health, n. d). The Task Force established 63 recommendations which included:
- Nationwide strategies to improve mental health services aiming at preventing substance abuse, suicide, drinking, bullying, dating and domestic violence, and other destructive behavior;
- The State University System should find the ways to raise the funding for wellness and mental health needs;
- All campuses have to develop a course on 'Introduction to Mental Health';
- The peer groups for mental health support are to be organized on each campus;
- Each educational institution has to expand or establish close relationship with the local systems concerning mental health.
The next important step was to create threat assessment teams which were to evaluate any behavioral threats on campuses. This task has been successfully implemented by many educational institutions nationwide. The main aims of these teams are to help everyone on campus recognize any signs of mental deceases which may suggest the potential danger of the individual and to actually help this dangerous individual to overcome his or her mental problems (Campus Violence and Mental Health, n. d).
Nonetheless all the precautions taken within the walls of the colleges and universities, another policy must ensure that after graduation mental health services will be available to those students who have experienced this kind of difficulties while studying. The report released by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education outlines that, unfortunately, only half of the institutions provide recovery services after the graduation of students with behavioral problems (Campus Violence and Mental Health, n. d).
To conclude, we should remember that if we want to provide for our own safety and the safety of people around us, we should be helpful and attentive to the needs of people around us.
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