Student Behavior Problems Vex PCC ; Psychologist Says Issues Handled; Faculty Is Worried

Article excerpt

The student called himself "Heinrich Himmler" -- Hitler's right- hand man -- and spoke of carving flesh and killing babies, frightening faculty at the Pima Community College campus where killer Jared Loughner once studied.

For months, the troubled student remained in school despite faculty pleas that he be banned, that his parents be notified, and that he not have access to weapons.

Nearly three years after Loughner terrorized PCC's Northwest Campus and went on to kill or wound 19 people, the college still doesn't have a solid system for dealing with threatening student behavior, faculty leaders allege.

James Sanchez, PCC's chief psychologist and the top person responsible for assessing whether students pose a danger, disputes that.

He said the college deals thoroughly with such cases, though officials are bound by student privacy rules, and may not do a good job of communicating their findings to employees.

Even so, Sanchez's boss is hiring outside help to investigate after faculty leaders filed a formal complaint this week about Sanchez's performance.

"If there's a problem, it will be fixed," said Mark Ziska, PCC's interim human-resources chief, who supervises Sanchez. "I have made this my highest priority, and we are going to get to the bottom of it."

Ziska wasn't on the job in 2010 when Loughner was a student, or this past spring when the Hitler aficionado set off alarm bells with his bizarre behavior.

In the latter case, faculty described the student as Loughner- like in an April complaint to the college's ethics hot line. The complaint protested PCC's decision to let the student stay on.

"A student identified himself as Heinrich Himmler on his name tag and when told not to, changed it to 'empty, hollow, kill' similar to the language used by Loughner," said the complaint, a copy of which was provided to the Arizona Daily Star by a college employee.

"He also told a female classmate that he wanted to cut the eyes out of a woman who rejected him in the mental hospital," the complaint said.

"He spoke of a fascination with cutting into livers. …