A Parent’s Perspective on a Campus Threat

If you've read my recent tweets and/or posts you know our family has been going through a nightmare situation.  A mentally unstable student at my son's college has been sending him email and text threats, including death threats.  It's a situation you never expect to find your kid in when you send him off to college.

My son is attending college on the other side of the country, over 3,000 miles from home, which makes everything about this situation more difficult.

Here's a little background:

•  My son and Problem Kid (PK) live on different floors in the same dorm.

•  PK is a foreign student from South America.  He has no family here, or nearby.

•  The threats to my son were unprovoked.  That's not just my (mom) perspective, but also what's been determined by the university.

•  PK has a history of psychiatric problems and erratic behavior.

•  PK has a substance abuse problem.

•  PK is currently on probation for threats he made against a teacher and administrator last semester.  This is not the first time he's exhibited this type of behavior.

•  My son has been staying off campus, with a friend, in an effort to stay safe.

•  PK posted a sign on his door that said "Don't RIP xxxx"  (xxxx being my son's name).  I wanted to vomit when I heard.

•  Shortly after posting the sign, PK had a Bible delivered to my son.  I got chills when I found out.  He's also alternated threatening my son with violence and inviting him to church.  Clearly, PK needs help NOW.

•  As a result of his recent behavior, PK is being ostracized by everyone in the dorm.  I don't imagine feeling isolated helps his mental state.

•  All emails/text messages, etc. from PK to my son have been forwarded to the Dean.

•  The Dean has informed university staff, teachers, and police of a potential threat/problem with PK.

•  It took three phone calls and two days for me to hear back from the Dean at the school.  For that, I give the school a big fat "F" on their parent report card.  (In fact, I didn't get a call back until I left a message mentioning we were considering transfering our son to another university.)

The Dean informed me they're working on moving PK to different housing on campus within the next 24 hours.  It didn't happen by last night as expected.  It will hopefully happen today.  I agree with the Dean, moving PK is an important first step.  It would be nice if my son could get back to his own room/environment as quickly as possible.  

The Dean also told me PK is being evaluated by both a substance abuse counselor and a psychiatrist over the course of the next two days.

The psychiatrist evaluating PK this week is the same one who evaluated him in prior incidents.  Maybe he/she will do a better job this time?

Once the substance abuse counselor and the psychiatrist have written their reports, the university "Threat Assessment Team" will make a decision as to what, if anything, the university is going to do about PK.

In the meantime, PK has been given a "No Contact Order" from the university which states he's not allowed to have any contact, whatsoever, with my son.  He didn't follow police orders over the weekend to stay away from him, leaving me unconvinced he'll follow the No Contact Order.

My son has been given the phone number of campus police to call "if anything happens."  

Somehow, that isn't very comforting.

The Dean told me he doesn't *think* PK will actually carry out his violent threats, but admitted he's not a psychiatrist and "no one can be sure."  He told me they're taking the threats "very seriously," but from my perspective – they're not taking them seriously enough.  The Dean has dealt with PK before due to prior incidents and said he believes PK "thrives on drama" and "creates situations so he can get a lot of attention."

He seems to believe that translates into violent threats but not violent action.

However, if PK wants drama and a lot of attention, wouldn't a violent act on campus give PK exactly what he wants?

How can anyone assume violent threats won't be backed up with violence?

Basically, it comes down to this:

PK is mentally unstable (everyone seems in agreement on this point) and has made threats to teachers, administrators and students on campus over the course of this school year.  The university feels the best way to deal with this is to keep evaluating him every time a new incident comes up.  The university doesn't, at this time, appear to be considering removing him from campus.  Apparently they want to wait until he actually physically harms/kills someone to take action.

Do they need PK's tuition that badly?  

I ask that question in all seriousness because I think tuition money for the university is one of the factors here.

Color me cynical.

I was surprised to hear the Dean had not yet talked to PK's parents.  He said he planned to call them within 24 hours.  "I've talked to them before, over other incidents" he said nonchalantly.


One thing is clear, the university is incapable of moving quickly.  Also, the university appears unable to act decisively until/unless someone is physically hurt or PK has a gun in his hands.

I've told my son he can come home until this is resolved.  I've told him he has our support if he wants to transfer to another school.  He's afraid for his safety, but at the same time he wants to stay where he is.  He doesn't want to "lose" a semester by quitting or transferring.  His friends and social life are there; he doesn't want to give up the college life and good friends he's established.

Shouldn't the student making threats to others be removed?  Isn't it totally backwards that the student receiving the threats must consider leaving for his own personal safety?

What's wrong with our universities?

And yes, I would love to hear from you if you work for a college and can shed some light on this for me.

My son told me he's concerned PK will come back and attack him at some point in the future.  "What happens if I think this has been resolved, and he comes after me a few months down the road?"

I think that's a very good question for the Dean, don't you?

* You can read what happened next in this saga by clicking here. *

© Twenty Four At Heart

38 Responses to “A Parent’s Perspective on a Campus Threat”

  1. sandra

    This is just a symptom of a society that has decided that there are few black and white issues. Let’s make all issues gray. We should live our lives saying x is wrong and y is right and stand firm our ground. Do not compromise our beliefs and let ALL human lives be important. Friends and an education are important but what does it matter if you don’t have your life. Bring your son home now….the dean doesn’t get it and never will.

  2. karen

    I am beginning to wonder what exactly the influence or relationship is that his parents have with the university.

  3. Sheppitsgal

    I’m with Karen, although I’m more inclined to think that the University are afraid of the ‘racism’ card being played. In all seriousness, sounds like PK needs help, real help, ‘in a hospital’ help.
    Hope your boy continues to be ok, 24. Hugs x

  4. Jan

    Suzanne, I know you don’t want to do this, but you should SERIOUSLY consider outing the name of the university – and tell them before hand that you will. Impress upon them your influence, the audience you reach via your blog, Facebook and Twitter. I know your son also doesn’t want to leave, but his safety is far more important than his friends and losing a semester – if they don’t resolve this, NOW, I don’t see how you have any choice.

  5. joanne

    that kid should be on a boat back home right now! What if your lawyer wrote to the dean and informed him that you think he is acting irresponsibly, and that if your childs education is compromised, or one hair on his head is touched by this threat you will hold him(and the school) responsible.There is always the school board of directors, they are the ones who hired that Dean. Find out if they are aware. Or perhaps the thought that you might take it to the newspapers would make him want to side with safety. every instance of tolerance toward school violence has turned out very badly and it is a hot issue.

  6. yvonne nc

    I’m stunned. When will these people wake up and smell the coffee? PK is a ticking time bomb. period. I can’t believe the police aren’t involved. This person needs to have a TDO (temporary detention order) and involuntarily committed fro a serious evaluation. Then immigration need to be informed. This kid needs to be sent out of the country. Hey I’m in NC and work for a top ranking University. Lord I hope he’s not attending here, I’d hate to think they would turn a blind eye to this.

  7. Jenny in MN now AZ

    Is the dean afraid of this kid? Seriously can’t believe they are acting like this is just an attention thing. What are the laws about this behavior? Are there any? This kid has all the control right now. He has the victims terrorized and altering their lifestyle due to his behavior.
    If the school is allowing this to go on for so long it means they don’t have a policy in place and yes they are after the $. Unacceptable to not have the administration take this seriously and the fact the police are handing it back to campus security has me baffled. I can’t believe it is legal to make threats to someone.
    The fact your son is worried about his safety today and in the future – isn’t that the goal of a terrorist? Your son is young and wants his fun and productive life back. This kid having the freedom to walk the streets – has ruined so much. There is no way of knowing when the kid may snap and since he has indicated he has had the violent thoughts and is so vocal about it…hello law enforcement and school… WARNING!
    You may need to pull the parent card and do what you think is best for you child at this point. Granted he may not agree with walking away from his friends and a semester but if that is what makes the most sense for safety…maybe it should be the plan for now. Difficult situation. The emotional and psychological impact this may have on your son – I hope is not a lasting negative.
    If the US laws can’t help in the situation – then finding the best way to protect oneself is the key. Even if it means starting over with the school, etc. Sad and scary situation!

  8. yvonne nc

    Here’s a link for NC on involuntary commitments:
    Here’s what stands out to me:
    Danger to others” means that:
    “within the relevant past, the individual has inflicted or attempted to inflict or threatened to inflict serious bodily harm on another, or has acted in such a way as to create a substantial risk of serious bodily harm to another, or has
    engaged in extreme destruction of property; and that there is a reasonable probability that this conduct will be repeated. Previous episodes of dangerousness to others, when applicable, may be considered when determining reasonable probability of future dangerous conduct. Clear,cogent, and convincing evidence that an individual has committed a homicide in the relevant past is prima facie evidence of dangerousness to others.”
    In my previous work life I worked in mental health. He fits the criteria for involuntary commitment.

  9. linda

    This is ridculous! This kid has done this before?? What they hell is the University waiting for?? Does PK have a ‘sponsor’ in the States? Have they been involved/informed? I’m thinking the Dean doesn’t want to remove PK because it will lead to bad publicity for the school. HELLO!? Bad press now or worse press later!
    ((HUGS)) I continue to keep you/Son in my thoughts.

  10. WebSavvyMom

    –>I know which school he attends and quite frankly, I’m shocked at their laissez-faire attitude about this problem student.
    He should be put on restriction and not allowed on campus until the issue has been fully investigated.
    Isn’t it easier to beg forgiveness than ask permission?
    Also, I sent you a link in a DM to Virginia Tech’s policies about campus safety that was updated last month. I think they have a lot of good reference materials.

  11. Erica

    When there’s a threat of violence the victim usually has to leave. That seems to be the way things work. I hope your case is an exception and the school removes PK.

  12. Donna in VA

    Listen. I had a niece and two nephews at Virginia Tech when that @#$%er lost his ever-loving mind. I understand your fear. This guy sounds like he fits the same exact ticket. I can not believe that the university is being so “careful” with PK’s “rights”. I thought after all the incidents in the last several years that there was a ZERO Tolerance law enforced on all campuses. WTH?
    I, personally, would immediately contact a lawyer, OUT the university’s name like Jan said and inform them of how far your audience reaches and how diverse your audience is, maybe even contact news agencies (that’s what the lawyer would be for). Bring attention to this university like nothing they’ve ever seen. They need to pick up the pace and PK needs to be removed from this university immediately!!

  13. Kristan

    As I mentioned before, I was an RA at my university 4 years ago, as was my boyfriend. Of course I can’t speak for every RA or every university’s Student Life department, but I can tell you that something like this is *probably* being taken very seriously. In addition to everyone involved being a human being, and most of them decent, it’s also just bad publicity if anything were to happen. At the same time, there are a lot of legal restrictions about what action can and cannot be taken.
    So far it sounds like you’re taking all the right steps. I can only reiterate my suggestions from the previous post, especially given that the parties involved seem to be living in student housing. That does give RAs more leeway to get involved — to be safety buffers, if nothing else. Absolutely PK needs to be moved, but even then, to your son’s point about not knowing if the threat is truly gone, I would make sure the desk attendants and RAs in your son’s dorm know NOT to let PK in. EVER. I would have the Dean send something to that effect in writing to the Housefellow (or whatever they’re called — adult leader of the RA staff) of your son’s dorm, and leave a copy of that letter, with PK’s photo, at the desk/booth. Not *every* student in the dorm needs to know about this situation (although they probably do already) but having the RAs/attendants know would provide a first line of defense.
    Just based on what little I know of the situation, I’m *inclined* to agree with the Dean, that this is not likely to become any more serious than it is, because usually the noisy ones *are* looking for attention, and it’s the quiet ones who are more likely to act. HOWEVER. For a parent, and for a university, EVERY potential threat should be taken seriously. Because it IS serious. And maybe PK is the boy who cried wolf; maybe he will just continue to harrass and threaten people, and nothing more. Or maybe it will graduate into a real wolf someday. The problem is that we don’t know.
    Speaking of escalation, I agree that PK needs help. Having never seen a university counselor myself, I have no idea what they are or are not equipped to handle. (My understanding is that they usually see kids for things like depression, stress, etc.) Definitely I would push the Dean again on contacting PK’s parents and getting them to get help for their son. If he doesn’t want to have that conversation with the parents, maybe offer to do it yourself.
    Also, at some point I would check in with your son and his friend/s to see if *they* need or want some professional support. They’re going through a lot right now, and there is nothing wrong with seeking counseling/guidance to deal with the emotions and concerns.

  14. Denise

    I think that type of threat is considered terrorism so I would strongly suggest that you give the good old FBI a call right there in sunny California and ask them how to proceed. Get someone else involved because you sure as hell don’t want to have any regrets later. And as we’ve seen, any mentally unstable person in our country can get a gun anytime they want.

  15. Judi

    “And maybe PK is the boy who cried wolf; maybe he will just continue to harrass and threaten people, and nothing more.”
    This may be true, but harrassment and threats are not OK. I agree that he should probably be involuntarily committed. I also wonder if it’s a good idea for your son to move back to his old dorm room, since PK would know where he lives. Even if all the RAs, etc., are forewarned and PK shouldn’t have access to the dorm, I would worry. It is ridiculous that the burden falls on the victim instead of the perpetrator.
    I also work at a university, and am actively involved with our emergency response team. We have undergone quite a bit of training in this area since VA Tech and I believe this would have been handled differently on our campus (I sure hope so, anyway). Yes, PK has rights, but since this is not the first time he’s made threats and been told it’s a problem, he should be expelled and possibly deported.
    If this were the Dean’s kid, would he be OK with someone telling him “I don’t think he’ll act on it, but I’m not a psychiatrist”????

  16. Tami

    We live in a society where victims have no rights and its all about protecting the criminals. this is really a sad, scary, indication of just that.

  17. Blondefabulous

    Even if PK doesn’t “mean it”, threats are threats. You aren’t allowed to make those, especially death threats! You unfortunately need a lawyer right now. The school isn’t being helpful and is indeed dragging their heels. You paid tuition just like PK’s parents. I think you’re going to need legal help to make the university do what needs to be done. Nothing makes PR departments quiver like the threat of a lawsuit!

  18. Missy

    This situation horrifies me. I know we may not have every pertinent fact in this case, but this sounds like an extremely serious issue. If sounds like an attorney may be the best way to bring the necessary and immediate pressure.

  19. Robert

    My heart aches for you. I will be keeping your family in my thoughts. Stay strong and good luck

  20. C Lo

    I absolutely don’t understand why PK hasn’t been kicked out of school. I can’t imagine this kind of thing being let go this long when I was in college and that was barely over 10 years ago.
    I agree w/ Missy……..I’d be strongly tempted to call an attorney and see if they can put some pressure on the university. This just is unacceptable.
    I hope your son stays safe.

  21. NeCole

    I’m with Jan, tell them you are going to the media and do it. They need pressure from outside sources to do the right thing since obviously they are incapable of doing it on their own. There’s no reason to allow PK to remain on campus. They have ample evidence to CYA if any issues arise regarding his rights.

  22. ShaBean

    It’s all so alarming because of what’s happened over the past couple of days here in LA. Literally the day you posted the first post about this, I walked into my living room only to hear about a shooting at Gardena High School and the only thing keeping me from fearing for you and yours was that your posts seem to be a about a College situation. And whats even more horrible is yesterday their were 2 more high school shootings. One at El Camino Real and another outside Bell High. In a world were Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tuscon, etc can apparently happen with ease; how can anyone disregard any sign of a threat towards anyone. I’m flabbergasted that PK hasn’t been removed from Campus at the very least. In a school where the students don’t pay their way, PK would have been removed, expelled from that school and possible charges filed. Does the zero tolerance only apply to State run schools? If that is the case then this is a sad sad statement about our tuition based schools priorities.

  23. laura m

    I am so sorry you and your “student” have to go through this crap. It’s rediculous! In high school if you even say “ill hurt you” you are suspended for a week no questions aske, so why is it, that when money is involved, they take that over safety. Rediculous!

  24. jenn in tenn

    I can’t say anything that hasn’t already been said. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your son. Good luck.

  25. Mama Bub

    I’m sorry that there isn’t an easy solution, that we can’t just whisk away PK and make this better for your son and everyone else around. Sometimes it’s easier to remove the victim from the circumstances than to try to control the problem, as much as that seems like a huge punishment to your son.

  26. sandi

    two thoughts- This PK- is not a PK he is a PA meaning adult. Adults go to college, not kids.
    if you want your son to stay safe and without fear of the adult threatening him, your son is the one that needs to get out of there, because I agree with your son, even if PK is asked to leave, or booted out, he can walk on to any campus in the USA and pull a trigger including the campus he just got kicked out of.
    I know where your son is. I know how easy it is to walk on to that campus. Just because PK is asked to leave… Well they don’t have the man power to keep you son safe 24/7.
    I understand the social life, the transferring nightmares, but he won’t be having a social life at all if he is dead. This shit is real and I think **** needs to get his ass on a plane and come home.

  27. Donna

    I agree with MaMa Bub. The University can and probably will expel PK but that doesn’t really make your son any safer. And your son is right: PK can show up anyplace to do his damage if that is his REAL intention. To be totally safe your son probably needs to remove himself from the situation at hand. Not fair, no, but if safety is what you value then there is no other choice. Doubtful the cops will get involved on hearsay but I’d think that a note, stating RIP along with your sons name, and a bible, might at least be enough to have the cops bring PK in for a talking to. I don’t know. I’m not sure how the University can be held accountable; they can’t patrol or keep tabs on every student and a crazy person can be crazy as hell until they do something illegal. Hopefully this bad time will pass, but still, how can you rest easy knowing that a threat has been made on your son. Man, I feel for you.

  28. Pam

    I am so sorry and hope the police and school get it together and stop this kid. It’s so scary to think of our kids in a situation like this.

  29. annette

    This is outrageous. Either PK has some kind of connections or the dean is an idiot. I would think the university’s attorneys would be handling this quickly to avoid a lawsuit. The fact that there are prior incidents leaves them in a very bad position in terms of negligence. I understand that your son should not have to walk away from school/friends. Maybe the dean needs to hear from an attorney that you will expect a full refund of tuition, books, dorm etc PLUS compensation for having to move your son to a new school (may as well throw in moving expenses etc). If their inaction is motivated by getting PK’s tuition then they should be motivated by the high cost of losing your son. If it ain’t money,then the kid must be related to someone.

  30. DuchessOmnium

    Oh, Suzanne, I hope all will be well with your son! I feel pretty sure that now that the University is alerted to the issue they will take steps to protect him, but I can see that you would feel pretty scared right now. PK’s tuition fees are nothing to what they are going to have to pay out if you sue. Sometimes markets work.
    I am thinking of you, your son, and all your family.

  31. Kelly

    Wow what a terrible situation. I hope your son is hanging in there and you too. I don’t think it would be such a bad idea to let them know you have a popular blog, a lot of readers, and a big reach. Sadly, it may take something like that to ge their attention.

  32. Jason

    Terrifying. Oh my goodness. I wish I had some good advice. How can they not take these threats seriously when school violence is a regular thing now?
    I hope this gets resolved soon!

  33. Jane

    I’m with Jan – out the school and Twitter like a bird. Moving PR to another dorm does nothing to prevent him from harming your son. Given the situation in Arizona and all the school shootings lately, I’d agree with contacting the FBI. Please don’t make the mistake of worrying that you might be overreacting. You’re NOT! PR should have been expelled as soon as he violated the no contact order. You really can’t rely on the school to protect your son. If it were me, I’d be on a plane tonight. Seriously, I would. That university president might actually do something if you land on his doorstep tomorrow.

  34. Sophmom

    I’m so sorry to hear that your family is experiencing this. Sending our precious children off to college is a huge leap of faith anyway, and having one in such delicate difficulty so far away is harder than I can imagine. I haven’t read every word of every comment, so I apologize if I’m repeating. Is PK an American citizen? After you finish talking with the FBI and the Dean, you might try calling the INS. Perhaps he should or could be sent home?

  35. Jack

    I would look into getting your son a Taser or Pepper spray to have on hand. I am so sorry that you have to deal with this.

  36. Jill

    Wow. Just wow. I have no words – I think everyone else said it all just perfectly. I’d be scared. In fact, I am scared and I’m not even the mother. I hope the Dean does the right thing … for all parties involved!

  37. Alexis (Minnesota)

    Sorry for the delayed comment but we’ve been enduring our own crap here so….didn’t get a chance to read in a format I could respond to.
    So so so glad the planets aligned and things were resolved for you and your son without a violent ending. Hopefully the other kid will get the help he needs.
    Been thinking about y’all a lot – glad for the update.


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