Panel: Virginia Tech's Actions, State's Mental Health Laws Flawed

A state panel convened by Virginia Governor Tim Kaine to investigate the April 16 shootings at Virginia Tech that left 33 people dead and 17 wounded has released its report. In addition to being critical of university officials' decisions before and after the massacre, the report notes that the state's procedures for providing professional staff members to help families get information, crisis intervention, and referrals to other resources did not work.

In reviewing the events leading up to the tragedy and how the situation was handled by public safety officers, emergency services providers, and the university, the Virginia Tech Review Panel conducted more than 200 interviews and reviewed thousands of pages of records, including childhood school records of Seung Hui Cho, the 23-year-old shooter who by middle school was said to be demonstrating suicidal and homicidal tendencies. Among the panel's findings, issued in a 147-page report with 14 appendices, was that while a campuswide lockdown after the first shootings would have been impractical and probably ineffective in stopping Cho, the death toll might nevertheless have been lower had the university issued an alert earlier or even canceled classes.

The report also notes that Virginia's mental health laws are flawed and that services for mental health users are inadequate, citing a lack of sufficient resources that results in gaps in the mental health system, including short-term crisis stabilization and comprehensive outpatient services. Widespread confusion about what federal and state privacy laws allow, and about federal laws governing records of health care provided in educational settings, contributed to the tragedy, the report found. For the full report, visit http://www.governor.virginia.gov/TempContent/techPanelReport.cfm.

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