On Campus

Shooting raises questions over college's health policy

Critics say Jared L. Loughner should have undergone an involuntary mental health exam

Pima Community College, in Tuscon AZ, is under scrutiny over whether it could have prevented a shooting that saw six people killed, and several others wounded, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Jared L. Loughner, the primary suspect in the attack, had taken courses at the College since 2005 but was suspended in September after several run ins with campus police over disruptions in classrooms and libraries. He had also posted videos to You Tube where he declared the College illegal. School officials said he could not return to classes unless he received a psychiatric evaluation declaring that he would not endanger himself or others at the school.

That decision is now being criticized, the New York Times reported Thursday. Laura J. Waterman, director of Southern Arizona Mental Health Corporation says the college should have initiated an involuntary psychiatric evaluation of Loughner. “Where does it reach a level where you say this person shouldn’t be a part of any community and we have a responsibility to do something about that?” she said.

In Arizona, an involuntary evaluation can be initiated with an application for a court order by someone such as a parent or a teacher. However, Pima’s police chief said that the rules restrict applying for the order unless there is an “imminent danger.” Waterman disagrees and says a “broader standard” is applied that does not require the danger to be imminent, only possible. “And it costs nothing to make a phone call and talk about it and consult with a professional,” she said.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.