Since the start of the 2019 school year, St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) has faced two gun-related scares on campus. Due to these circumstances, the school administration and Public Safety decided to require all students and faculty in the community to attend an emergency preparedness training in case incidents with guns were to occur here. These sessions began in mid-November and continued throughout early December. Each session lasted 90 minutes and featured two videos, a powerpoint presentation and a discussion addressing safety information specific to SMCM. The presentation also showcased the new campus safety app known as “Campus Shield,” which allows students to receive all information from Public Safety in an effort to increase communication and keep students more informed. For students with spotty cell service in rural Maryland, the app serves to connect Public Safety and the community closer together.
The first video during the training presented students with warning signs of how the community can recognize someone in distress. This video aimed to address behavior, emotional and mental states which students may recognize a fellow peer going through. The video addresses that, although campus shootings are rare, assaults and intimate partner violence are not uncommon. With this video, students are able to identify warning signs they can address and who to report to if concerned.
The second video presented more triggering information that could be difficult to watch. It was an active shooter emergency preparedness video on run, hide and fight protocol for all students and faculty. The “Run, Hide, Fight” is the current national protocol for institutes of higher education in an active shooter situation. The video was dedicated to instilling students with a survival mindset and helping them understand realistic strategies when dealing with an active shooter situation.
Students report having mixed opinions on the training. Student, Julianna Parreco (‘21) felt that “it was unnecessary to make it mandatory, especially because [I] know a handful of students who won’t be attending it because they already know what to do.” She also believes that Public Safety should respond to incidents quickly.
During Parreco’s training, a student asked why Public Safety does not have a cop on duty. The head of Public Safety, said “I don’t know” and did not fully address the question, which made Parreco nervous. The school would benefit from having an actual trained police officer on duty so “we don’t have to wait 10+ minutes for them to arrive on campus if anything happens,” Parreco noted.