This year, Blackburn College has an interesting class on campus. It’s all about mass shootings. The class has 53 people in it, which is roughly ten percent of the student body. It’s a Special Topics in Criminal Justice class and is not a requirement for anyone. The Tuesday night class has killer reviews so far.
The class was created and is taught by Department Chair of Leadership, Law, and Public Service Dr. Shelly Peffer. She did most of the work for the class this summer. “I thought it was about time for a special topics class,” Peffer said, “and mass shooters was a big enough topic to have its own class.” Last year, she asked if students would be interested in a class about mass shooters, and they were very interested.
The class is about the history of mass shootings, myths about mass shootings, the psychology of the shooters, the definition of what a mass shooting is, some international shootings and precautions to take in the event of a mass shooting. The precaution lecture will be taught with Director of Campus Safety Morrie Fraser. Peffer hopes that students leave the class with a better understanding of what they should do if they’re in a mass shooting situation. She also wants students to know that the media’s portrayal of mass shootings and mass shooters is rarely the truth, and they should compare and analyze the commonalities between shootings if they want to figure out the truth, causes and precautionary steps for preventing a mass shooting.
The students in the class are mostly justice administration majors and psychology majors. The class started with 55 students, but two of them dropped the class. Senior criminal justice and computer science major Kelsie Tomerlin is a student in the class. She said, “Dr. Peffer is a phenomenal professor that likes to hear our perception and opinions on the topics discussed in class.” Tomerlin thinks “It is helpful to look inside the minds of killers and be aware of what happened in past shootings,” and said the class has been a real eye-opener for her. The class has inspired her to try to find a solution to the gun problem in America.
Peffer said the department does a special topics course once every two or three years. She admitted it’s a lot of work to prepare a one-time class, but it’s possible that this particular class will be taught again. “People keep asking when it will be offered again,” she said, even though it was supposed to be a one-time course. While it might not be offered again, she said she didn’t want to rule out the possibility. She would like to do a future special topics course on something new, like serial killers. There are so many things you could explore in the justice administration field, and she’s not sure if she wants to repeat a topic.