Faculty Town Hall Meeting Tackles Violence Issues

Claudia Anaya

Among the results of an alarming assault on a teacher last month, teachers may now be more cautious about giving out their home or cell phone numbers to students.

After an English teacher was attacked in the library building by a former student on Feb. 19, the main topic at campus meetings has been safety.

Workplace violence was the main topic at a faculty meeting held in the auditorium at noon on March 11.

President Audre Levy, associate dean of health services Mary Mirch, GCC police captain Nidal Kobaissi, and Paul Schlossman, dean of student affairs, spoke at the meeting.

Mirch talked about the incident, defined “threat,” and discussed plans to take action in case of another incident.

“The victim was threatened, [and] felt like she had to figure out who to go to,” said Mirch. “If anything happens on campus, contact the dean of student affairs, human resources, campus police, the Health Center, or your supervisor. It is the duty of those individuals on campus to then follow through with a course of action. It becomes the district’s responsibility.”

Mirch spoke about non-tolerance for workplace violence that “includes threatening or violent actions by employees directed at other employees, by employees against students, or visitors, and by students or visitors directed at or against district employees.

Consistent with this policy, acts or threats of physical or psychological violence, including, but are not limited to: intimidation, harassment, physical attack or property damage,” according to Title 8, California Code of Regulations, Section 3203; Labor Code Section 6400.

From the auditorium platform, Mirch warned staff members to trust their gut when they feel like they have been threatened, even if a student seems to be joking about it.

“I had a student a few years ago who was nuts and failed the class,” said Kerry Riley, ethnic studies teacher, explaining that after the student failed two more times, he referred the student to another teacher for “safety reasons.”

The admonition that faculty members were told to keep quiet about the attack on Feb. 19 was brought up by one teacher who raised his hand. He said the incident was alarming because they were told to keep quiet and they did not know if the student was still at large and would try to come back to the campus.

Even though it wasn’t mentioned in the meeting, the attacker was in custody for a day and was served with a three-year restraining order on March 12.

Mirch mentioned that threatening behavior could lead to expulsion, suspension (lasting from two days to years), and/or a criminal investigation, depending on their behavior.

“It’s scary,” said a teacher in a crowd of raised hands. She said she “hoped we could come up with some method that we can communicate with Paul’s office or campus police.”

“Some answers we have, some we don’t have. it’s a work in progress,” said Mirch, talking about the plan of action.

“Some faculty still choose to give their students their home phone number and I would strongly discourage that,” said Mirch reminding teachers that “times are different.”