Panel educates students on violent trends in America

Friday, October 23, 2015

By Alicia Stearn

Special to The Communitarian

The Business, Computing and Social Science division sponsored a “Violence in America” presentation for DCCC students at Marple campus Oct. 13.

Seven expert panelists discussed mass shootings, police violence and the Stand your Ground laws, before taking students’ questions.

Matt O’Donnell, an ABC News anchor, started the presentation by asking the panelists questions, such as why mass shootings are happening and how can they be stopped.

“There’s disenfranchised individuals that want to make a name for themselves,” said Mike Cuff, a Supervisory Special Agent and graduate of the FBI Academy. “The number of school shootings is [only] a fraction of homicides. It’s for media attention.”

Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan said that mental health issues are the “common denominator” in all mass shootings, including school shootings.

Whelan explained that the Delaware County Council, a committee in charge of legislative and administrative decisions in the county, set up and authorized an alert system for Delaware County schools, K-12. If there is suspicious activity in the school, the alert system allows teachers or staff to press a button, putting the school on lockdown.

“We should start a point of prevention in our schools,” said Richard P. Barrett, an assistant U.S. attorney, “to teach at an early age how to prevent hate and warn kids about this virus.”

“It’s such a shame when mass shootings happen at schools,” said Darnée A. Shepheard, a marketing major who attended the presentation. “A place where people want to feel safe and better themselves, but they cannot do that.”

Commissioner Joesph Bail Jr., a retired Chester County police officer, told the audience that often police are simply “reactive” instead of proactive because they don’t “have the time and energy.”

Mary Catherine Roper, the deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, explained the difference between the Stand your Ground law and the Castle Doctrine. The Castle Doctrine gives Americans the right to defend themselves in their own home or car, she explained.

The Stand your Ground law gives citizens in 23 states the right to legally protect themselves if they feel their life is threatened or they are being attacked.

The Stand your Ground law in Pennsylvania states, “If you’re in a legally justifiable place and you believe you are in danger, and you have a firearm, and are being attacked by someone with a firearm, you can use it,” Whelan said. “But if you don’t have [the firearm] legally, you can’t even use it.”

One student asked, “What is being done to protect our police officers? Not in just a physical sense but mentally.”

Commisioner Bail explained that there are counselors police officers can talk to after a traumatic event. He then described his own story of having another officer die in his arms in and admitted that he still goes to counseling ever since the event in 1999.

Other panelists included Dr. Raymond Albert, a professor and director of the Law and Social Policy Program, and Dr. Clyde Ledbetter, Jr., a graduate student at the University of Oxford and a professor teaching human rights education at Cheney University.

In the beginning of the presentation, information pamphlets were handed out on the rights of American citizens which contained a “My Rights Card” that students can give to law enforcement officials if they are being detained.

“This pamphlet is great,” Shepheard said. “There is so much useful information in here that one day could help someone at any moment.”

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