February 27, 2018
Dear Highline students,
I want to thank everyone who attended Friday’s campus forum regarding Feb. 16’s lockdown. Mount Constance/Olympus was filled to overflowing with students, staff, faculty, and community members who shared questions, concerns, suggestions, and experiences. I am especially grateful to our Director of Public Safety and Emergency Management, David Menke, and to Des Moines Police Chief George Delgado. Together, they fielded comments for over two hours.
Unsurprisingly, the gathering brought out a wide range of thoughts and reactions. The conversation, though sometimes painful to hear, was invaluable. Here’s a summary of what I heard:
Just before 9 a.m. on the 16th, Des Moines Police started to receive reports of gunfire heard on or near Highline’s campus. As Des Moines officers were responding, a caller warned Kent Police of an armed individual in Building 99. As the two scenarios converged, police commanders initiated an active-shooter response. Highline went on lockdown while law enforcement took control of the scene for the next several hours. Officers later found evidence of illegal firearm discharge off campus. They are continuing to investigate.
Ways to continue to support one another
A number of us remain shaken by Feb. 16’s events. The Counseling Center can provide individual support. You can make an appointment at the front desk in Building 6, 2nd floor. Even as our attention turns back to schoolwork, it’s not too late to check in with your classmates to see how they’re doing. As I noted in an email to faculty and staff, while we’re all relieved that no one was hurt, we should guard against lighthearted or minimizing remarks about the day.
What happens next
Last Friday morning, over 35 emergency responders held a three-hour debriefing with college officials. Everyone in the room was sincerely committed to communicating openly, learning, and improving. Likewise, the college itself continues to compile feedback both from large-group conversations and from individual comments. Our Incident Feedback form offers an online avenue for students, faculty, and staff to submit ideas and information. Though the form will remain open indefinitely, we hope to begin analyzing the feedback March 6. We will use the input to refine our communications, facilities, processes, training, and equipment and supplies. We will report back.
That said, I want to commend all of you once more for your efficient, caring, and flexible responses during Feb. 16’s event.
Again, I am especially grateful to our Public Safety officers. I appreciate their pro-active, professional reaction to the day’s stressful, uncertain circumstances.