Opinion: Professors’ cellphone policies conflict with emergency alert system

Imagine this: an active shooter is on the American River College campus and the emergency alert system sends a text to all students to secure themselves in their classrooms or stay away from campus.

This is a great way to relay emergency information, but most professors don’t allow cellphones to be on in class. The students who may be in the most danger may never get the warning.

“Students can call for assistance. The blue stickers around campus are designed for specific instructions for what to do in case of an emergency,” said Vice President of Student Services Robin Neal, but she would not respond directly to the question posed about the possible security threat of an active shooter without students having access to their phones.

Associate Vice President of Instruction Lisa Lawrenson also argued that ARC staff and faculty were well versed in emergency preparedness, but when asked specifically how students should handle not being able to have access to their phones in case of an emergency while in class she said, “If a student feels that strongly about taking a class where a professor doesn’t allow cellphones, they should just take another class.”

Although both vice presidents were clear that there are several administrators equipped for many types of emergencies, “professors are not required to be trained in CPR or first aid,” Neal said.

Lawrenson quickly added that, “there are several classes given for professional development to staff members of ARC, including CPR, first aid and the usage of defibrillators.”

Both Neal and Lawrenson described the ASIS program put into place by the Los Rios Police Department, which outlines procedures during an emergency.

“(If) an active shooter situation were to happen on campus, the staff on duty at the time of the incident would go in search of the subject, armed, and also provide any and all needed medical intervention until further resources arrived,” said Sgt. Mike Olsen of the Los Rios Police Department.

Sgt. Olsen did not know who was in charge of the text message system other that it was dealt with at the captain level or above. He also was unaware of any system with the acronym ASIS.

Professors on campus had different views of the cellphone policies for their classes.

Charles Thomsen, a geography professor, said he is “open to students using phones, because I want my students to live if there is a shooter on campus.” He also said that if a student abuses his liberal cellphone policy, he would take appropriate action as necessary with that individual.

Philosophy professor Dennis Holden thought of the issue concerning cellphone alerts and keeps his cellphone on his podium, but does not allow students to use their phones as it disrupts the class.

With ever-changing technology and the fear of liability lawsuits mounting, the LRCCD will have to face this issue and create a district-wide policy protecting students’ use of cellphones in class.

Until the time comes where students are allowed to bring their cellphones into class, Lawrenson assures all students without the cellphone notification alert that the school does have bullhorns that they can use to warn students.


Correction: The original story misspelled Lisa Lawrenson’s name.

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