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UCC shooting prompts work group on postsecondary security

Gov. Brown met more than 40 college officials to discuss ways to prevent, respond to campus violence

Gov. Kate Brown is forming a work group to examine ways colleges and universities can prevent and respond to mass shootings .

The work group came out of concerns about higher education institutions’ preparedness for violent attacks in the wake of the mass shooting at Roseburg’s Umpqua Community College, Brown said. The Oct. 1 shooting, which claimed nine lives, was the deadliest in the state’s history.

The governor met behind closed doors last week with presidents of more than 40 public and private universities and colleges to hold a debriefing on response and recovery efforts at UCC, and to discuss how lessons from that tragedy could inform future emergency planning.

“One of the reasons for bringing this group together ... is I wanted their input and to hear their concerns before putting together the work group,” Brown said after the meeting.

The group’s charge is to find ways for postsecondary institutions to pool resources and swap best practices for violence prevention and response.

Some institutions, such as the University of Oregon, have sophisticated emergency response teams to coordinate with emergency responders, counselors and media. Smaller institutions have fewer resources to pull that off, said Corban University President Sheldon Nord, who attended the gathering.

“It was really clear we have this really talented and really skilled incident response team at the U of O so one of the conversations is ‘We can’t afford to replicate that incredible unit at every single campus, so how do we ensure that incident response team is available on any college or university campus should this type of gun violence occur?’” Brown asked.

“I was really heartened by this idea of pooling our resources so we can have teams in place to help administrators, faculty, staff and students feel safe and have a plan going forward,” Nord said.

The governor plans to select the work group in the next few weeks.

However, proposals from the group are not likely to be ready in time for the 2016 legislative session in February. Brown said the work group is a longer-term project that may result in recommendations for the 2017 session.

Oregon already has a Task Force on School Safety, established by the Legislature in 2014, to research best practices to prevent mass shootings and respond more efficiently to the state’s K-12 campuses.

Brown said a separate work group will help address concerns and characteristics specific to higher education institutions.

School safety task force members recently unveiled their recommendations for 2016. They are asking lawmakers to fund a statewide tip line, where callers may anonymously report potential threats, suicidal behavior and instances of bullying

Another priority is to create eight regional threat assessment teams to identify students who may be at risk of committing violence and give them additional supervision, mental health services or other support.

Task force leaders also want to develop a statewide database of school floor plans but agreed in October to list that as a lower priority than the tip line and threat assessment teams due to limited state resources.