Peninsula College student council to host forum on school gun violence Wednesday

PORT ANGELES — In the wake of the school shooting earlier this month that left 17 people dead in Florida, Peninsula College’s Associated Student Council is hosting a forum on school gun violence Wednesday.

“We want to open it up to the students and see if they have concerns about their safety and talk about what our student government is trying to do,” said ASC President Kelly Kevershan, a sophomore at the college.

The forum is set for 12:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Pirate Union Building on the Port Angeles campus at 1502 E. Lauridsen Blvd.

Kevershan will be joined on the panel by Marty Martinez from Campus Safety, Cathy Engle from Student Development and Port Angeles Police Chief Brian Smith. Janet Lucas, an English professor at the college, will moderate the forum.

Kevershan said she hasn’t heard of any concerns about Peninsula College specifically, but said there has been discussion on campus about the safety of students across the country.

“We’re not near Florida, but this happens everywhere,” she said. “It’s a concern for student safety.”

She said students on campus were concerned after Highline College in Des Moines went on lockdown earlier this month after erroneous reports of possible gunfire.

There have been other incidents this month around the Puget Sound as well.

Students at two schools in Tacoma were arrested after allegedly making threats against their schools on Friday and Sunday.

Earlier this month, an 18-year-old man in Everett was charged with attempted murder after his grandmother reported that she believed he was planning a school shooting.

The forum comes amid national discussion about how to prevent school shootings and how lawmakers should address gun regulations.

“We do represent the students and it’s nice to hear from them and hear their ideas,” Kevershan said. “It’s much easier to lead and help if we know what they’re feeling, especially on things this important.”

Lucas said this is a conversation that needs to happen and that it’s good that students are the ones that are leading the effort.

“As a faculty member, I’m excited to talk about it, especially when the conversation has turned to students taking it into their own hands,” she said, adding that faculty are also affected.

“We’re shot too when things like that happen,” Lucas said.

Lucas, who has one student who attended a school where there was a mass shooting, said students in her online classes have been asking about the forum and that other faculty members have been expressing concerns over the movement to arm teachers with guns.

She said the forum will be an opportunity for students to see what the college has done to prepare for a shooting and what plans are in place.

Rick Ross, ASC advisor, said each of the panelists will open with a statement and then the forum will be opened to questions and comments.

“We’re expecting to have lots of community members and students,” he said.

He said one of the goals of the forum is to see how PC students feel about the issue and whether there is any action the student government should take.

Smith said he is prepared to answer students’ questions and hear their concerns. He’s prepared to discuss police response, how PAPD works with area schools and provide information about how people can raise concerns.

Peninsula College ASC is part of the Washington Community & Technical College Student Association.

Ross said members of the association have been discussing how to move forward and what actions, if any, the organization or student governments should take.

“The student forum is a way to gauge from our students what they are looking for from their leaders,” he said. “ASC will follow up next week … and see if they want to join forces with other community and technical colleges on legislative action, or internal action.”

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].

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