Safety First: Identifying and preventing violent student related incidents

Colin McCann

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A lot can happen in a day for the typical college student, but not everyone handles pressure and difficult situations the same way. Some people stress eat; other people exercise, but no matter how someone deals with any given situation, safety is a main concern.

To help maintain safety on campus, a program was created called Saving Our Students (SOS). The program is run by faculty and staff who identify red flags in student behavior and intervene if necessary. SOS was first introduced following the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007, where 32 people were killed and 17 others were injured.

Dean of Students Thomas VanSchoor said it was later discovered that the Virginia Tech incident could have been avoided. Numerous teachers had concerns about the student shooter, but there was no one to report the concerns to and no way to know other teachers felt the same way.

“We created a program where concerns can be brought and assembled in one place,” VanSchoor said.

UNF Dean of Students Thomas J. VanSchoor. Photo by Colin McCann.

In addition to concerns from students, faculty and staff, other information like police reports, housing incident reports, advising notes and grades are compiled for a better understanding of that individual’s situation. As of now, the concerns and student information are sent in via email or phone call.

To create a more efficient program, VanSchoor said a software called Maxient has been introduced and will be put into effect by the end of the semester. Maxient will allow students, faculty and staff to submit concerns online, and it will compile the additional information regarding the student.

Vanschoor said an issue may not be what it seems at first glance. A change in grades may suggest problems with that individuals mental health, but that person may have also started working a job on top of classes, which can affect grades.

Some things to look out for, according to VanSchoor, are changes in behavior, hygiene, class attendance, social activity and more. Heavy drug or alcohol use is also a concern, as well as any signs that the individual may cause harm to themselves or others.

VanSchoor said last year there were around 150 concerns reported. Without SOS, those concerns would have never been addressed, and the future of those individuals and their peers and teachers could have been negatively impacted.

When dealing with a potentially problematic situation, there are steps you can take. It is important to remain calm, look at how the individual might view the situation, and report the situation to the Student Conduct Office at (904) 620-3979.

As a teacher, you should give the students a warning detailing the expectations and consequences. Afterwards, teachers can ask the student to leave the class (although, without formal review, they cannot be forced to leave if they are enrolled) or remove all other individuals from the class if necessary. The incident should also be documented.

If you have any concerns, you can contact the Office of the Dean of Students at (904) 620-1491. The office is open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can also contact the University Police Department at (904) 620-2800 during evening and weekends.

For more information or news tips, or if you see an error in this story or have any compliments or concerns, contact [email protected].