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VIRGINIA TECH FINED BY U.S. DEPT OF EDUCATION FOR RESPONSE TO SHOOTINGS

Virginia Tech will have to pay the maximum $55,000 fine for violating federal law by waiting too long to notify students during the 2007 shooting rampage but will not lose any federal student aid, the U.S. Department of Education announced Tuesday.

Department officials wrote in a letter to the school that the sanction should have been greater for the school’s slow response to the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. The $55,000 fine was the most the department could levy for Tech’s two violations of the federal Clery Act, which requires timely reporting of crimes on campus.

“While Virginia Tech’s violations warrant a fine far in excess of what is currently permissible under the statute, the Department’s fine authority is limited,” wrote Mary Gust, director of a department panel that dictated what punishment the school would receive for the violation.

A state commission that investigated the shootings also found that the university erred by failing to notify the campus sooner. The state reached an $11 million settlement with many of the victims’ families. Two families have sued and are seeking $10 million in damages from university officials. That case is set for trial this fall.

The SERAPH Research Team, consisting of education and law enforcement experts, has discovered five reasons for unsafe college campuses.

The SERAPH Research Team provides a bi-yearly school-safety report for Congress and in 2006 prepared an assessment of the “The Virginia Tech Review Panel Report”.

In its analysis of security concerns at colleges and universities across the country, SERAPH has determined:

1. Since the Columbine massacre in 1999, police departments across the United States have been training in “active shooter” response. This has been a well-established practice for use in public [K-12] schools.

However, our survey of college and university security directors and police chiefs shows that few have had this training. Two reasons were given: Administrators often do not want to pay for the training or in some cases bar campus security/police from participating in training to avoid what they perceived to be a “militaristic campus atmosphere”.

2. College administrators have no training in security or police operations and as a result micromanage security operations on their campuses. This is problematic because of the obvious delay it causes in response time. In addition, when a college or university has a police department, administrative micromanagement can violate state law regarding obstruction of justice.

3. A proper security audit is vitally important to campus security. However, our survey of security directors / police chiefs indicates that most college administrators will not allow these assessments to be done out of fear of liability exposure and the chance the audit would require changes in management systems.

4. Threat assessment as a science has existed in the United States since the early 1940s. Predication and prevention of violence is a critical aspect of campus security and one that, in SERAPH’s experience, seriously is lacking on higher-education campuses. All Resident Assistants, security / police and department administrators should be trained to identify violent behavior in students, staff and visitors.

A lack of systematic monitoring of people on campus contributes to crime.

5. An emergency plan is only as good as the data in it and the ability of key personnel to use it effectively.

Training is important for the effective management of an emergency by key personnel. You cannot ask untrained people to do what trained people do.

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