Pierce College, along with the other nine schools in the district, continues to prepare and tighten precautions to ensure student and staff safety on campus, but many are still unaware of the safety measures that are available to them.
Without adequate preparation and information, many students are rendered unable to take advantage of some of the services provided by sheriffs on campus or respond correctly in the event of an emergency.
Pierce professor Michael Schilf explained the reality that some people on campus are not even familiar with the sheriff’s emergency numbers.
“How do you get students aware? Personally I think the easiest and cheapest way to do it is instructors should be required to inform their students on the first day of class and have that number in their syllabus,” Schilf said. “That wouldn’t cost any money and at least the students would be exposed to it. A lot of them probably still wouldn’t pay attention but the probability that more would pay attention is higher.”
Each school is equipped with their own emergency procedures, evacuation maps and regulations to protect everyone on campus while accommodating to the school’s dynamic in the face of danger.
Criminal justice major Leydi Tovar said though she has never been in a dangerous situation on campus it’s never far from her mind.
“There is always that thought if someone crazy comes onto campus and just starts shooting,” Tovar said. “I feel pretty safe and that they are doing their job and arresting anybody who is causing distractions.”
The Clery Act requires colleges and universities that participate in federal financial programs to annually disclose information about crime on or near campuses, as previously reported in a November 2013 Roundup article titled, “Violent crimes on campus have reached new lows.”
The 2013 Clery Report had Pierce tied with Los Angeles Harbor College for third safest school in the LACCD behind Los Angeles Valley College and West Los Angeles College.
A professor for 12 years, Michael Schilf has taught at Glendale Community College, Los Angeles City College and Pasadena City College and said that Pierce is not the safest campus.
“Pierce is so large. A lot of the other schools like Pasadena City College are really confined. Accessibility for public safety to be there is maybe quicker or maybe they are more visible,” Schilf said. “Glendale College, location wise, is a lot more condensed I suppose. I think maybe people feel on a campus that’s so spread out that they have more freedom.”
The district’s commitment to safer campuses got a boost in 2001 after the LACCD Police merged with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Part of a greater effort to make the campus safe, Pierce provides blue emergency phones over numerous parts of the campus that connect directly to the on-campus Sheriff’s station. As reported in the Roundup in November, several of these phones were not operational at the beginning of this semester, but one is now being repaired in the Village area.
Each classroom is also required to have the Sheriff’s emergency number posted and Pierce now offers students, staff and visitors an escort service anywhere on campus.
A deputy for the past 21 years, on the Pierce campus for five, Alfred Guerrero says that it is up to the campus to inform students about safety procedures on campus and that he is only on campus “for the safety of all.”
“My job is to enforce the laws here on campus,” Guerrero said. “Keep the peace, attend meetings, be visibly safe, work on paperwork and anything else that might be needed on campus.”
Deputy Director of the Emergency Outreach Bureau Tony Beliz visits two or three schools per week to educate faculty and students on potential threats.
Discussed are student shootings, the psychology to why they occur, and the increasing threat of violence at schools across the country. A set of strategies are also presented to determine the credibility of a threat.
“The goal is two things: prevent a Columbine or a Sandy Hook and also help the kid graduate,” Beliz said during his Feb. 25 visit to Pierce.
Business major Hovsep Yacoupian said that he does feel safer during the day while on campus and hasn’t been put in a dangerous position.
“I still sometimes feel safe because thankfully there are police around the school that are protecting us,” Yacoupian said. “There are still some times that you think that you might be in a little in danger.”
Despite procedures put in place by the Sheriff’s Department to protect the campus from potential threats, nothing is certain as Schilf learned the day he was assaulted by an unidentified man in the middle of his class during the spring 2013 semester.
Schilf said that a man entered his classroom wanting to speak with a female student but was immediately asked to leave and wait to talk after class.
When the man did not cooperate, he realized the visitor was a threat. It then became physical as Schilf had to hold him down until the sheriffs arrived on scene.
“He literally bull-rushed me, blew past me and opened the door and that’s when I acted immediately. I got him in a double arm-bar and then I pummeled him into the ground and I just restrained him,” Schilf said. “As he was screaming obscenities to me I was calmly just saying ‘do not fight me’ and ‘I’m restraining you for your own safety and for the safety of my students.”
As the man continued to be belligerent, Schilf had to hold him down until the sheriffs were able to take control of the situation.
“I was a wrestler when I was younger so I knew the physics of how to take him down safely and I knew how to restrain him with an arm-bar but the students just stood around me in a circle and didn’t do anything,” Schilf said.
Students were unprepared for the situation, making the response time slower than it might have been off-campus.
“I think a lot of the students were scared, numb, sort of frozen, paralyzed, maybe because of fear but I also think a lot of the students just weren’t informed about the process. Fortunately there was a sign in the room, after about two or three minutes, someone called the number and then public safety arrived.”