MALVERN, Pa., Jan. 20, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The National Behavioral Intervention Team Association (NaBITA) (http://www.nabita.org) is the leading national association for school and college behavioral intervention teams (BITs). Nearly two weeks ago, former Pima Community College student Jared Loughner committed a violent attack. We now know of strange and threatening behaviors that led to his suspension from Pima prior to the shootings. Was being separated from Pima a "final straw" that drove Loughner to his extreme act? If so, why wasn't his wrath directed specifically at Pima?
Pima is facing the tyranny of the "Do Mores" who come out of the woodwork after acts like these to suggest that everyone needed to do more. NaBITA's official position is that Pima was competent, responsible and effective in its interventions. Based on what is known so far of what Pima knew and did at the time, its actions were reasonable and appropriate under the circumstances.
The process of "what if'ing" is now on in earnest. What if Pima had reached out to the parents? It did. What if Pima had referred Loughner to its campus counselors? Like most community colleges, Pima does not have a comprehensive mental health service. What if Pima had encouraged Loughner into counseling externally? It did. Should the police have been involved? They were. Pima has a sworn campus police department. And, they determined that his behaviors were erratic, aberrant and potentially threatening. Frankly, so are the behaviors of many college students, given the mental health crisis on college campuses. We can respond with discipline, and that is what Pima did. It didn't just suspend him, it made his reinstatement conditional on clearance from a mental health professional. It gave Loughner more than a gentle push in a life-saving direction, but it was Loughner who opted not to grasp the lifeline that was there for the asking.
Now, the "do mores" say Pima should have referred Loughner to the courts, to the local mental health agencies, or to the local police. While it's possible this action could have drawn Loughner into therapy, treatment or hospitalization, the assumptions that mental health and law enforcement intervention immediately upon Loughner's suspension would have made a difference here are hopeful conjecture at best. The "do mores" imply that it is the job of a college to monitor students, but colleges are not in-patient treatment facilities.
NaBITA represents a diverse constituency of public, private, two-year and four-year institutions, with a responsibility to help frame responsible national public discourse on the role of schools, colleges and universities in balancing the rights and needs of the individual with the safety of the campus and larger communities. Pima got that balance right. Sometimes, though, getting it right doesn't prevent the attack. Pointing fingers won't either.
An extended version of this statement can be accessed at http://www.nabita.org.
SOURCE National Behavioral Intervention Team Association