Nothing inspires fear like the thought of a gunman on a rampage. There have been 115 “active shooter” incidents reported across the United States since July 2012 causing the tragic loss of 85 lives and hundreds of injuries.

Several of the deadliest incidents have been on campus. In June, a heavily armed gunman killed three people in the neighborhood surrounding Santa Monica College, then claimed three more victims on campus, including a custodian and his daughter.

“That hit home,” said El Camino College Police Officer Ericka Solorzano. “It put us on high alert.” El Camino police studied the Santa Monica incident and adjusted their active shooter training. They have also cut sexual assaults and property crimes by providing cadets to accompany students and visitors around the clock instead of only from 5 to 10 p.m.

The state Education Code requires every school and community college to have a comprehensive safety plan covering a broad range of emergencies, including earthquakes, fires and violent incidents. 

The code also directs districts to inform teachers which students have violent histories. Some administrators, however, hide behind confidentiality or the narrow wording of the law to avoid telling classified staff which kids have exhibited behavior that would be grounds for suspension or expulsion.

Robert Chacanaca, president of the Santa Cruz Council of Classified Employees, said the “spirit of the law is to inform anyone — staff or faculty — on a need-to-know basis about a violent kid they are dealing with in their class.”

Law & Order at El Camino College

The 19 newest members of AFT Local 6142 are responsible for a broad range of services, from being campus escorts and fingerprinting applicants to battery jumps and unlocking doors for faculty and staff. The police officers at El Camino College in Torrance have brought down crime rates and train regularly to respond to violent incidents and natural disasters.

Ericka Solorzano, who is secretary of the Police Officers Association, said eventually there will be just one union. She added that officers appreciate belonging to a larger labor family in the AFT-affiliated El Camino Classified Employees as they begin negotiations in the coming year. “There’s safety in numbers.”