On March 1, a shooting at a middle school in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, resulted in the death of a 15-year-old boy after two days in intensive care.
“Law enforcement’s calling it a targeted killing — so, more than a school shooting, what you’re really looking at is a murder that happened to take place on school grounds,” director of the criminal justice program Samuel Jeffrey said.
According to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, the student was shot in a hallway of Watson Chapel Junior High School, and the suspect who fled the scene is now being held in a detention center with a bond of $1 million.
“We’ve never had anything even remotely like that here at Harding,” Director of Public Safety (DPS) Craig Russell said.
Harding is fortunate in that regard, but the University is not without other incidents.
“We do have situations where there may be a suspicious person on campus, [and] we do have situations where there is a dispute between people on campus,” Russell said. “We’ve had physical altercations between students [and] even between employees in the past.”
According to Russell, the University has a threat assessment team that includes officials from the DPS office, student health services office, counseling center and student life office, as well as Executive Vice President David Collins.
“We kind of advertise to the faculty and staff that if you see anything or hear anything that might be suspicious and could potentially be threatening in nature, then report that to any one of these individuals that’s on the threat assessment team,” Russell said.
The residence life coordinators (RLC) and resident assistants (RA) have mandatory training that includes plans for many different types of emergencies.
“We discussed a lot about active shooters [and] what we would do in those scenarios,” Pryor Hall RLC Mary Fish said. “My [RA] team and I worked together to create a plan if we were to have an active shooter come to our dorm, and it’s something that we’ve watched training videos for and I feel that our public safety is very prepared for.”
Harding’s DPS officers said they are especially prepared for any situation that might be a threat to students.
“Our office is very well trained and very well equipped to deal with that and respond very quickly,” Russell said. “The reason that we have armed officers on campus is so that if that ever happened — in the unlikely event that that ever happened — that we’re prepared to deal with that very, very quickly.”
The DPS office is open at all times, and there is always a live person who is available to take calls.
“We try to make sure that students know how to contact us — we can’t anticipate every possible thing that might come up on campus, including emergencies,” Russell said. “What we do want to provide is a way for you to contact us very quickly.”
DPS may be contacted at 501-279-5000.