Last week, El Centro College, a community college located in the heart of Dallas, found itself in the middle of the crossfire during the sniper shooting that killed five police officers and wounded several others. The event was supposed to be a peaceful protest over recent police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota. Thanks to a decision by college administrators, El Centro was already on lockdown when the shooting took place as a precautionary measure in anticipation of the protest. Thus, students and faculty were safely contained during the crossfire.
According to the latest reports from the Chronicle of Higher Education, El Centro dispatched a campus-wide notification approximately forty minutes after the shooting had started, advising students to shelter-in-place. According to the Chronicle, some students are critical of how the college handled the situation, suggesting that the school should have been quicker to dispatch an alert.
To enhance student and staff safety, and to minimize liability risks in these challenging times, colleges and universities should review their policies and procedures on emergency preparedness, including protocols for communicating to faculty, students, and staff members during an emergency. Further, the Clery Act requires all federally-funded institutions to disseminate timely warnings and emergency notifications. Additionally, institutions may wish to provide their faculty, students, and staff members with training on emergency situations. Members of Steptoe & Johnson’s Higher Education Team stand ready to advise colleges and universities regarding emergency preparedness and response, including Clery Act compliance.