Angel Padilla said she wanted only to draw attention to Modesto Junior College's security problems when she left a fake threat against the school and one of its instructors last week. She is glad the flower stunt worked and doesn't think she deserved the resulting suspension.
Padilla left flowers and copies of a class paper concerning campus security in front of the library and Student Center on MJC's East Campus Oct. 22. Obtained by The Bee, the one-page paper was written for an administrative justice class and describes a hypothetical situation in which two gunmen come onto campus shooting everyone they see as they search for a teacher.
Many people walking past the flowers read only the title of Padilla's work, "MJC Massacre." It was revealed later in the paper that the threat was not real.
"I told my (administrative justice) teacher what I did and he said, 'You're really going to get their attention,' " Padilla said. "I wanted to make students aware of what could happen."
Padilla said the stunt earned her a 10-day suspension, which was lifted four days early Wednesday after she met with Vice President of Student Services Bob Nadell.
MJC officials confirmed the suspension but would not comment further because it is a disciplinary matter.
It wasn't until the day after the flower delivery that officials removed Padilla from class and suspended her. She said the suspension was too severe for a joke and that she is not a safety threat. She wanted to make a point about the campus's lax security, an observation her instructors, some of them former law enforcement officers, have made, Padilla said.
Although Padilla, 31, maintains she did nothing wrong and that administrators overreacted, she said she understands why, with several recent shootings on U.S. high school and college campuses. To improve safety, classroom doors should have locks and students, staff and faculty should get training for how to react during an emergency, Padilla said.
MJC's standards of conduct allow for suspension and expulsion of students. Officials haven't expelled a student for years; no students were suspended during the 2006-07 school year, but five were in 2005-06, MJC spokeswoman Linda Hoile said.
Even though the threat was not real, officials said they are using the event as a lesson.
The security officer who came across the flowers thought they were part of a campus event about domestic violence, so the message wasn't investigated right away. Eventually, Padilla mentioned to officers that she left the flowers and wrote the paper. She said she was interviewed by security officers for about 90 minutes Oct. 22.
An e-mail eventually went out, more than two hours after the flowers first were noticed by security. The notice was sent to staff and faculty, not students, officials acknowledged this week after saying initially that students were informed about the hoax.
Notifying students is difficult because they are not given MJC e-mail addresses, Hoile said. Sending a mass e-mail to about 20,000 students' personal e-mail addresses taxes MJC's server, she said. Officials are working on getting students MJC e-mail accounts in the next few years.
The Yosemite Community College District supervises MJC security. The district hired a new security head earlier this year who already was working on improving security, updating emergency preparedness plans, replacing untrained security officers and training administrators, staff and faculty.
A re-evaluation of MJC's security was the point of Padilla's paper, even if it didn't happen according to her plan. "It served its purpose," she said.
Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2339.