Blackboard fails to warn students in campus-wide evacuation

By Solomon Smith and Herbert Orellana

Early warning system Blackboard Connect does not make the grade in alerting students, faculty, and staff.

Blackboard Connect, Valley College’s emergency notification system, recently failed to immediately alert students of a possible shooter on campus.

On Nov. 9, the campus was placed on lock-down around 7 p.m. after police received multiple 911 calls about an active shooter on campus.  The Los Angeles Police Department arrived on the scene, setting up a unified command post at the corner of Fulton Avenue and Burbank Boulevard, off campus, in order to facilitate the evacuation. About 20 patrol cars, five firefighter trucks, a K-9 unit,  and the Los Angeles SWAT arrived on scene. LAPD also provided a helicopter for air support and to assist in the search for the alleged shooter.

Blackboard’s notification system proved unreliable. Valley President Erika Endrijonas said on the scene that “software issues prevented students to receive texts, voicemails and emails. They are definitely getting an email in the morning.”

The night of the evacuation, Endrijonas sent out a campus-wide email about Blackboard.

“I am writing to let you know that I am quite aware that our BlackBoard Connect notification system did not function properly this evening,” she said.  “Jennifer Borucki sent out a lock-down message shortly after the incident occurred and the campus was being searched by law enforcement officers, but it took an inordinate amount of time for the messages to reach everyone. She then spent the next two hours on the phone with BlackBoard Connect staff trying to get the issue resolved.  In the meantime, I received calls and texts from staff, faculty and administrators seeking information.”

 Of the multiple 911 calls, someone said there was a hostage situation that was later discredited, according to police press officer Josh Rubenstein, who also confirmed that there was no evidence of shots fired. Endrijonas added in her email, “some students thought that they heard gun fire in Parking Lot A, but after searching the campus and interviewing witnesses, it turned out to be an older vehicle backfiring as it traveled down Fulton.” 

Valley’s President Erika Endrijonas ultimately decided to close the campus upon her arrival to the command center in order to protect the safety of the students.

No evidence of a shooting or shooter was found, and there was video posted of a car backfiring on Fulton Avenue. 

Even though it was a false alarm, students were not released from classes until 9:20 and thought for almost an hour that there was a shooter on campus.

“We got a message on the phone and someone walked into Monarch Hall saying there were shots fired,” said student Mark Salcedo.”It was a little scary.”

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