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Posted at 6:31 PM ET, 01/10/2011

Duncan: Arizona community college did what it could with suspect

By Valerie Strauss

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said today that the community college that forced out the suspect in the Arizona shooting rampage because he was disruptive did what it could in handling the young man.

"If I was the chancellor of that community college, I think that would have been my response," Duncan said in an interview with Washington Post reporters and editors. " ... My question is, lots of folks have mental issues. How's he get a gun?"

Jared Lee Loughner, 22, is now charged in the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others. Six people, including a federal judge, a Giffords aide and a 9-year-old girl, were killed, and 14, including Giffords, were wounded.

Last year, Loughner was asked to leave Pima Community College after campus police were called five times to deal with his disruptions in class and the library, the school said.

On Sept. 29, the college said, it discovered that Loughner had posted a YouTube video he had made on the campus. "In the video, he claims that the College is illegal according to the U.S. Constitution, and makes other claims," it said.

The school told Loughner that he couldn’t return until he had received a mental health clearance and could prove that he was not a danger to himself and others.

During the Post interview, Duncan was asked about how the community college had handled Loughner, and he said:

"I don't know the details. Where violence becomes sort of part of the political dialogue, where you have lax gun laws, where you have folks that are mentally unstable, easy access to guns, I think that's a recipe for disaster."

"I don't know any more details than you do ...

"From what I read, they said to the family that 'he needs some help and we won't take him back until you get him some help.' I'm not quite sure what else that community college can do. ... If I was the chancellor of that community college, I think that would have been my response. ... My question is, lots of folks have mental issues. How's he get a gun?"

Earlier in the day, Duncan had released the following statement about the shootings:

"The tragedy in Tucson leaves me sick with grief and sadness. A dedicated Congresswoman, a respected federal Judge, and a curious nine-year-old girl interested in public service are among the victims not only of a deranged madman but also of a society that too often shirks responsibility for our collective safety. My heart goes out to the victims and their families."

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By Valerie Strauss  | January 10, 2011; 6:31 PM ET
Categories:  Education Secretary Duncan  | Tags:  arizona community college, arizona shootings, gabby giffords, gabrielle giffords, giffords, jared lee loughner, loughner, pima community college, shooting suspect, the washington post  
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Even before the horror of Virginia Tech, which forced a complete rethinking of classroom safety, many college administrators and faculty devoted countless hours to discussions and strategies about how to help students in distress or who are disruptive or manifesting signs of mental illness. The ADA compels us to help and support students who are ill, including mental illness, and quite often, there's a judgment call involved in whether to summon help from campus security or campus health services. FERPA -- the privacy law --- also sometimes obscures the best answer to red flag misconduct.

This unbelievable tragedy in Arizona will force even more review of student rights, disciplinary and security procedures, and campus mental health services. Most certainly, we will also see an equal amount of deeply concerned discussion on the part of faculty members and campus leaders about the balance between access and safety when students manifest weird, bizarre, inappropriate or strange conduct that may not be a direct threat (hence, actionable) but that may be evidence of an unfolding mental health breakdown.

Colleges are largely open places where unusual behaviors often gain notice as the searching expressions of free spirits. Each tragic story moves the walls of that freedom a little bit closer to the real need for more control, firmer rules about conduct, and less blithe acceptance of behaviors that signal possible illness. We will continue to struggle with the balance among the competing values of privacy, freedom, security and access.

Posted by: TrinityPresident | January 10, 2011 7:48 PM | Report abuse

yep, the sheriff was certainly aware of the man.

guess what they're supposed to do with such info?

get it to the feds so the man cannot buy a gun.

failure of existing laws.

too bad the sheriff blew off the threat and referred to it as the "judges problem"

read the full story, get all the info.

Posted by: docwhocuts | January 10, 2011 7:51 PM | Report abuse

In order to obtain a FAA pilot's license and maintain the ability to fly, you have to pass a flight review and posses a medical certification - both of which need to be renewed every several years. Perhaps we should require a medical review requirement for gun purchases / ownership.

Posted by: maus92 | January 10, 2011 9:38 PM | Report abuse

Parents who allow grown children to live at home have some responsibility...if they are not able to step services have to step in and protect the rest of the community.

Posted by: judithclaire1939 | January 10, 2011 9:46 PM | Report abuse

If we can't trust the parents to feed their children any more, how can we trust them to raise their kids? The state must take over the rearing of all children NOW!

Seriously, if I were King, unless it could be shown that the parents had made some persistent efforts to get this mad man into some type of treatment, I would charge them as accessories to murder.

Posted by: Curmudgeon10 | January 11, 2011 5:46 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, just not buying any of it. How does forcing someone out of school help. Where was the student health services? "You cannot come back until you prove you are not a danger"... that sounds like they just pushed the problem off campus to others that had no idea of his past. Were the mental health authorities and the metro police made aware of the situation? "Go Get Help" is no help at all. Who took the time to take him to the health center, made an appointment for him and followed up to make sure he made it to the appointment.

We have not heard from his family... BUT it is going to be another tale of "we did everything we could do", but did they find and take his gun away? There was plenty of time to do that. Did they seek medical help for him? There are programs out there and people that can help you find them.

There are a lot of families out there that have mental illness within their family tree and manage to keep them from hurting anyone else. It is hard to do, but if you have to call the police on your dad, mom, sister or brother(etc)... DO IT.

For the most part, someone needs to monitor their meds to insure they are taking the prescribed amount... and spend some time observing and talking to them.

Posted by: jennyk1 | January 11, 2011 7:16 AM | Report abuse

And our gun laws are only going to become more and more promiscous thanks to the effective lobbying of the organized crime group known as the NRA. The day the U.S. Supreme Court invalidates our state's restrictions on guns in the classroom is the day I retire from teaching.

In fact, simple logic (based on current interpretations of the 2nd Amendment) says that every American is not only entitled to own a gun but also to kill with that gun since absent a conviction for a felony, an American cannot lose his or her right to own a gun (i.e., the state can prohibit someone from owning and, therefore, killing with a gun...but only AFTER that person has killed, at least, one person with a gun).

Our country's enemies can't help but watch in wonder and amazement: as they hang us with the economic rope that we have sold them (Lenin's predictions) we are only too willing to kill ourselves thanks to unlimited and unrestricted access to guns.

Posted by: jjedif | January 11, 2011 7:48 AM | Report abuse

It was a community college. I seriously doubt there was mental health program at the school. CC's doubt ussually have that kind of resources.

As far as the gun argument. I am a huge proponent of private gun ownership, however, I do beleive the insta-check system is complete failure. I relies on a database that simple relies on someone enterin some peice of information that sets a flag. Revalent information is often left out, in the case of the VT shooter, prohibited by law from being shared with the people who enter information. Gun homicides with legally purchased guns in Virginia have increased steadily since we went from the 5-day waiting period to the insta-check system.

This is what I propose: Go to a ten day waiting period. In that ten days a person, who is specifically autorized by law is allowed to search your records. This includes any private medical records relating to mental health. They should do internet searches of the person. The agents should be trained in criminal profiling and have a grading scale where standards are reviewed and tweaked on a quaterly basis. If you pass you get approved, if you fail, you have the right to appeal before a board within 30 days. All records pertaining to this process are sealed under law and can not be used in any other manner than determining elegibility. Now proponents of the insta-check system this would say violates a persons right incase they feel they are in imminent danger. Ok, to compensate, a person can bypass the system if they have a documented case. If there is such an urgent need there should be court records or a police report to back it up.

Even if we secrectly never did anything other than the insta-check, but still made them wait 10 days would make huge difference.

Posted by: akmzrazor | January 11, 2011 8:08 AM | Report abuse

Duncan said,
"I don't know the details. Where violence becomes sort of part of the political dialogue, where you have lax gun laws, where you have folks that are mentally unstable, easy access to guns, I think that's a recipe for disaster."
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Lax gun laws ?!?!?!?!?
Typical liberal response!!
The people who were supposed to be enforcing the laws were lax - they sold a documented mentally derranged person a gun!!

Posted by: thornegp2626 | January 11, 2011 8:54 AM | Report abuse

but are you the same people that say federal and local gov't budgets for mental health should be cut?

Posted by: nall92 | January 11, 2011 8:57 AM | Report abuse

This was a community college, not a big state university with their own psychology clinic or med school. This is where people go to learn trades or take entry-level courses in the hopes that they can transfer to Big State U. The responsibility of the administrators is to teach adults in a safe environment, which is what they did when they kicked Loughner off of campus. Community colleges are not responsible for social services -- indeed, they do not have the training nor background, and asking them to do so would be irresponsible. But, unlike Va Tech, they acted properly and expelled the student.

Posted by: steve1231 | January 11, 2011 9:18 AM | Report abuse

College health centers are woefully underfunded .Any mental health or counseling services are usually scanty at best, are even more underfunded, usually administered by non-medical'mental heath' workers who are more intersted in preserving their jobs with state benefits than they are in delivering appropiate care. They are pressured by their administrators to be 'customer service' oriented which is code for 'don't do anything that could make the student or their family members unhappy'- an impossible task in any area of medcine,espically with psychiatric patients. Usually if these college health centers employ psyciatrists , it is on a part time consultant basis only. G-0-d forbid we would ever employ enough psychiatrists in positions of true authority to do what is right for patients, their families, and society and ever allow them to do their jobs in such a PC setting. Ducan is right the 'pass the buck' response of the community college is business as usual in those settings.

Posted by: soccerhead | January 11, 2011 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Students at the college level are under the school's authority. If a college does not have protocols for disruptive students--which have existed for decades--it should be sued or lose accreditation. If it has them but does not use them, whoever didn't use them, should be terminated. As with Cho, it is inconceivable that a teacher would tolerate students talking to each other, say, much less the kind of behavior we have seen here.
If they do not comply, you ask them to leave; if they do not leave, you dismiss class at once and call security. Even if he flees, you know who he is and there are dozens of witnesses to what he did. If you are foolish enough to keep this person in your class, such that you are afraid to turn around and write on the board, then you do not know, or are unwilling to apply,your policies; or your school has none, which is negligent. The policies are there to protect the innocent. Had the school or teachers acted promptly, given this person's inappropriate behavior, he would have at least been committed involuntarily or otherwise confined. It is completely irresponsible for the school--or anyone else--to say the school did everything it could. Just like Tech: trying to wash the guilt off your hands.

Posted by: Beckola | January 11, 2011 9:28 AM | Report abuse

At my university the authorities would have done nothing. Professors have been threatened--nothing. My university is all about keeping thugs enrolled to get state money.

Posted by: rusty3 | January 11, 2011 9:32 AM | Report abuse

To say that the Community College had done all it could is evasive at best. After VT every school should recognize their need to id people that need help. Sorry Sec. Duncan you are just wrong.

Posted by: rogernebel | January 11, 2011 9:50 AM | Report abuse

"Students at the college level are under the school's authority."

No, they are not. They are adults, [usually] hold jobs, some are even supporting families, and they are free to come and go as they please. The only exception is when the student is on campus. Only then does the college have any authority over a student.

Enrolling in a college, especially a community college, doesn't sign your life away. They are not baby sitters. Nor are the instructors trained, experienced, or qualified to have someone involuntarily committed. Do you seriously expect an instructor, especially an adjunct (meaning that teaching is not their primary job), teaching a course in say, real estate or auto mechanics, to also be a mental healthy professional?

Posted by: steve1231 | January 11, 2011 9:54 AM | Report abuse

The School and Sheriff FAILED...this guy should have been thrown in jail which would have given him a record and thus he wouldn't have been able to buy the gun. Put Repubs in charge and we'll clean up the Liberals mess of allowing trash like this guy to roam the streets!

Posted by: mjandrews8 | January 11, 2011 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Let the potheads out of jail and put IN jail the violent crazies until you can find a mental hospital for them.

A story recently about a woman who was taking her kids from battered women's shelter to battered women's shelter because her husband kept finding her was given the advice by police to find one out in the country. Really? How about the police pick the guy up for jaywalking and then hold him on a $500,000 bond until his wife feels safe enough to press charges.

Posted by: HookedOnThePost | January 11, 2011 10:18 AM | Report abuse

"How's he get a gun?"

This from the Education Secretary?

Posted by: Georgetwoner | January 11, 2011 10:26 AM | Report abuse

The statement that these murdered and injured people are the victims "...of a society that too often shirks responsibility for our collective safety.." is so true. People are so worried about protecting every single individual's rights (even when certain individuals exhibit signs that they could become dangerous), that other people's right to public safety is not always considered. At least the community college did the right thing by kicking this kid out until he could prove he wasn't a threat. Unfortunately, other people dropped the ball. Even if he could not have been arrested before his murder spree, he could have been monitored better.

Posted by: CAmira5 | January 11, 2011 10:52 AM | Report abuse

did the community college provide Loughner with any in-house counseling?

Posted by: sti1es | January 11, 2011 11:25 AM | Report abuse

The issue is not the gun, but the lack of mental health support for young people in our education system. This is a time when many serious mental health issues become evident. In this case, it appears we are not looking at a borderline issue, but a very serious case of psychosis that was evident to all who had contact with him. What this proves is that we have no public mental health system that protects us from even the worst and the most dangerous perpetrators. This suggests that there would be substantial public benefit from bolstering community mental health services, compared to how they are organized today, and that the need for such services is great.

I think the issue of guns is relevant only in the contrast of our fetish to preserve meaningless rights to own weapons, against the backdrop of failing to provide even the most basic health services to a large portion of the population. Health services, including mental health, is not an issue of individualism, it is a social concern where humans all rely on the aid of others. Is there any benefit or honor in demonizing this basic aspect of human survival?

Posted by: AgentG | January 11, 2011 11:26 AM | Report abuse

"did the community college provide Loughner with any in-house counseling?"

It's a community college -- why would you expect a CC to have the capabilities to provide in-house counseling? Do you expect ITT Tech or DeVry to have in-house counseling?

Posted by: steve1231 | January 11, 2011 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Is it just me or is Duncan a dumb as a rock?

Posted by: lacy41 | January 11, 2011 7:34 PM | Report abuse

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