FEBRUARY 20, 2008

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Task force recommends more training, standard safety plan
for Oklahoma's campuses

Photo of Governor Brad Henry speaking at a lecturn.
Gov. Brad Henry commends the CLASS Task Force as it made its final recommendations Jan. 15. Behind him are task force members Lt. Col. Kerry Pettingill, CareerTech state director Phil Berkenbile, Chancellor Glen Johnson, and UCO President Roger Webb.

A group of state officials formally recommended on Jan. 15 to Gov. Brad Henry and the Legislature proposals to improve the safety and well-being of students by developing standard safety plans and providing more training for Oklahoma college and career technology campuses.

The Campus Life and Safety and Security (CLASS) Task Force estimated Oklahoma college and career technology campuses need an additional $16 million annually to fulfill safety needs. These funds would be raised from a variety of sources, including federal grants. It also requested that the governor allow the task force to continue meeting to monitor implementation of its recommendations and share resources among institutions.

Gov. Henry created the CLASS Task Force in 2007 following the deadly shootings at Virginia Tech. The task force is comprised of 15 officials from higher education, CareerTech, public safety and health services.

Chancellor Glen D. Johnson, chairman of the task force, praised the group’s work but emphasized its recommendations should only be the beginning of ongoing efforts.

“I believe this task force has not only met our purpose as outlined by the governor, but exceeded it,” Johnson said. “We’ve made some solid recommendations, but after this report is issued today, let’s not lose sight of our responsibilities. Let’s continue to implement these recommendations on our campuses.”

The task force spent seven months examining campus needs in emergency response, notification systems, counseling services, current laws and policies, and available funding. It established subcommittees to guide each of these focus areas. The task force also surveyed Oklahoma’s CareerTech campuses and public and independent colleges and universities about current security plans and student counseling services.

“Education, communication and preparation are essential to safe and secure environments on our campuses,” said Phil Berkenbile, vice chair of the task force and state director of the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education. “I also commend the work of the task force and believe by working together we can reduce risks and effectively manage emergencies we cannot prevent.”

The surveys, administered anonymously through Oklahoma’s Office of Homeland Security, reveal 90 percent of campuses have crisis management teams established, but campuses vary on how often faculty and students receive safety training and how they are notified about emergencies.

The task force subcommittees revealed other key findings, including:

- The availability of accurate records and photographs needs improvement.
- Many facilities do not have adequate back-up generators.
- Cooperation and planning with local law enforcement needs improvement.
- Most campuses have incident-reporting procedures.
- Overall, Oklahoma’s postsecondary institutions are significantly understaffed by mental health professionals.
- There is a widespread uncertainty concerning the application of federal or state privacy laws for students in need.
- Local and regional partnerships should be formed to identify potential funding sources and secure needed revenue.
- Information sharing should continue through a Web site, workshops and other means.

Based on those findings, the task force issued recommendations to improve emergency response and student safety on college and CareerTech campuses. Those recommendations include:

- The adoption of a statewide standard for campus policy and practices that will enhance the safety and security of students, faculty, administrators and visitors.
- A complete assessment of campus notification needs and development of a prioritized communication plan utilizing multiple appropriate methods.
- The establishment of a regular review protocol for campus response plans by appropriate campus staff and local responders.

The complete CLASS Task Force final report and recommendations are available online at www.okhighered.org/class.

Contact: Ben Hardcastle, OSRHE, (405) 225-9346