Monday, May 31, 2010

USDOE: Virginia Tech 2007 Tragedy Response Violated Notification Law

According to published reports throughout the nation on May 19, 2010, the preliminary U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) investigation of the Virginia Tech tragedy found the university violated federal law requiring timely warning of a crisis on campus.

Virginia Tech was notified of this USDOE finding on January 21, 2010 but only made it public (despite attempts by the press for Virginia Tech to release it earlier based on the Freedom of Information Act) on May 18, 2010—accompanying the federal report with their 73 page response.

Reprinted From U.S. News & World Report

Report Says Virginia Tech's Slow Response to Shootings Violated Law

May 19, 2010


An Education Department report released on Wednesday says that Virginia Tech failed to comply with a federal law that requires quick alerts to students in the event of campus emergencies. The document claimed the school responded too slowly to the 2007 campus shootings that killed 32, the Washington Post reports. This preliminary report prompted a swift rebuttal by the school, saying that the federal investigation of the school's response to the shootings had factual and legal errors.

The report says that Virginia Tech violated the Clery Act, a statute that necessitates swift alerts when campus emergencies unfold. Virginia Tech failed to notify the campus community quickly enough after the shooting of two students in an on-campus dormitory, the report says. The shooter, a Virginia Tech student named Seung Hui Cho, shot and killed 30 others in a campus building about two hours later.

"Virginia Tech failed to issue adequate warnings in a timely manner in response to the tragic events of April 16, 2007," the federal officials write in the report. "There are two aspects to this violation. First, the warnings that were issued by the university were not prepared or disseminated in a manner to give clear and timely notice of the threat to the health and safety of campus community members. Secondly, Virginia Tech did not follow its own policy for the issuance of timely warnings as published in its annual campus security reports."

In my opinion, the 73 page rebuttal of Virginia Tech to the USDOE findings is outlandish. Tech’s approach, through their new Director of Emergency Management Michael Mulhare—who was not at the university during the tragedy—is an attempt to obfuscate the meaning of timely warning and emergency notification as distinct policies that are not clearly defined.

What remains irrefutably clearly defined is that two students were killed on campus and the killer was at large, yet, Virginia Tech administration did not diligently, clearly and immediately notify the community of this tragedy. This lack of judgment, competence and leadership was responsible for 30 additional fatalities and many other injuries. Families entrusted their children and loved ones to the care of Virginia Tech who failed to protect them from crimes that were preventable. The continual disingenuous manipulation of information by VT administrators not only dishonors the victims but shamefully disrespects their families.

The reasonable mind does not need a policy to immediately take action to protect students and the college community when such a horrific act takes place on a campus and the killer is at large. Nevertheless, if Virginia Tech is going to continually look for loopholes and technical jargon in their chronic menagerie of denial, distortion and deception (obviously administration is aware that additional lawsuits are pending) perhaps they should know that the reasonable standard with such a crisis at a campus was very clearly documented years before the tragedy in the Recovery section (page 4-2) of the USDOE May 2003 Practical Information on Crisis Planning: A Guide for Schools and Communities: Respond within seconds

This reasonable standard was also clearly documented years before the tragedy in the 2005 Department of Education handbook titled The Handbook for Campus Crime Reporting (pages 61-62) guiding schools on the implementation of the Clery Act which says:

"The warning should be issued as soon as the pertinent information is available because the intent of a timely warning is to alert the campus community of continuing threats especially concerning safety, thereby enabling community members to protect themselves."


Practical Information on Crisis Planning: A Guide For Schools And Communities Click here to visit site
The Handbook for Campus Crime Reporting Click here to visit site
USDOE Report and Virginia Tech Response Click here to visit site
Virginia Tech Blogs Click here to visit site

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home