NC Community Colleges Move To Bar Safety Threats

CHARLOTTE, N.C.,None — Thank you for participating in this unscientific survey. Will Allowing Community Colleges To Deny Admission To Applicants Thought To Pose Threats Be Effective? Do you think allowing community colleges to deny admission to applicants they think pose a significant threat will be an effective policy? Yes. No.

North Carolina's community college board is moving ahead with a rule allowing schools to refuse admission to students who campus officials consider a threat.

The board voted Friday to give schools in the country's third-largest community college system the ability to bar students who appear to pose an imminent and significant threat. (Click here to read the policy.)

Megen Hoenk, a board spokeswoman, said the policy has been in the works for months.

"(Our policy committee) wanted to provide colleges with the tools they needed to protect their students," Hoenk said.

How admissions officers will screen potential applicants among the thousands of students statewide isn't clear.

"The rub is going to be, how do we know in advance? I can't answer that," Stephen Scott, president of Wake Technical Community College, told the Associated Press. Community colleges neither conduct criminal background checks nor require physicals, he said.

The policy will allow admissions departments to act on clues as they're presented, Stuart Fountain, community colleges board member, said. The ability to recognize students who pose risks should improve over time, he said.

"There may be the telltale sign that an admissions person might recognize that this person might be a threat to that campus," he said.

Eyewitness News brought the policy to Ellis Fields, the director of the Mental Health Association of Central Carolinas. She said she understands the rationale behind it, but that the language is misguided.

"It concerns me because I think the wording is very vague," Fields said. "It begs the question of who's going to determine and define each of those words?"

Some students at Central Piedmont Community College agreed that defining an "imminent and significant threat" will be a challenge.

"To one person it could be vulgar language or improper attitude, and to another person it could be physically hitting another person," freshman James Chavis said.

The Board of Community Colleges said all 58 community colleges in the state will be able to set their own definitions.

"This was a proactive approach that we wanted to take, that our policy committee wanted to take," Hoenk said.

Under the policy, any student denied admission will be able to appeal.

The policy will also have to be approved by the Rules Review Commission. (Click here for more about that process.) The earliest it would take effect would be April 1.

The vote comes nearly two weeks after the Arizona shootings that killed six and wounded others, including an Arizona congresswoman. Suspect Jared Loughner was suspended from his community college after a pattern of bizarre behavior on campus. For more on that story, click here.