The Worst Crime in American History: The
Virginia Tech Massacre
UPDATE Nov 2008: IllinoisVictims.org founders act as
victim support at their invitation to the Virginia Tech Victims Families in closed door
meetings with Virginia Governor Tim Kaine and submit
THIS ADVISORY REPORT on what
needs to be done for the victims families.
Below - accomplishments
of the VTV family as they take heroic measures to turn their
victimization into solutions to help others.
Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims of the
Virginia Tech Massacre on April 16, 2007. Sadly, the guns legally available to the
extremely disturbed and deranged student enabled this horrific act.
We have been working against the gun industry's pro-gun violence agenda
for years and this is just one more example of how the gun industry's
clients are its own worst enemy. We commend the victims families who have
gotten right to work on a variety of issues to prevent future such
victimization: Common sense background checks, campus safety, mental
One of the victims who survived is an Illinois
resident, Garrett Evans.
He is already working on a wonderful new product,
a backpack for students with a powerful alarm in it, to help other students not to
suffer as he has. We love victims who get to work on something
positive to help others not to be hurt as they have been!
If you would like to do something positive to
support these families and reduce gun violence, visit the Brady Campaign
to Prevent Gun Violence at
www.bradycampaign.org. This is where victims go for help when
gun violence strikes. They sure don't go the gun industry for help.
The gun industry can't, and won't provide help for victims and their
families. Not surprising, really, when you realize they can't admit
the fact that they have brought this country to this point of repeated
It will take many victims' voices to make a
difference and bring sanity back to the gun issue, but we will prevail.
After all, we're only asking the gun industry to cut back on its
profitability. It's not as if they were being asked to give up their
National Coalition of
Victims in Action to join the effort to circulate a petition
supporting the victims of this tragedy.
the petition in support of the victims of Virginia Tech below.
And to take part in a tribute to the Va Tech victims called a
"Lie-In" or to organizer (very easily!) one of your own, go to
www.ProtestEasyGuns.com - do a Lie
In in your community. Its easy, its powerful, and it will help to make an
We, the community of victim survivors, victim
advocates and support agencies across America,
unite in offering our heartfelt sorrow upon the evastating tragedy suffered by
the Virginia Tech community.
We mourn your terrible loss and share your
overwhelming grief. Individually and collectively, we extend our compassionate
understanding and support as you struggle to honor the lives of
your loved ones and friends.
We want the Virginia Tech community and other
areas of the country affected by these violent acts including students, faculty,
and staff as well as the families of the deceased to know
that many stand ready to help rebuild a spirit of
hope and healing.
We ask our fellow Americans to join us in
this important mission of service.
The importance of families and friends is never as
pronounced as during a time of tragedy.
Additionally we offer the added
support of families who have experienced the murder of a loved one and
understand the emotional journey you now begin. For the first time you may
realize there is evil in the world, but you will also see unbelievable love and
compassion from family, friends and even strangers who share your pain.
We jointly offer support not only to those
impacted by the massacre at Virginia Tech, but also to all those victimized by
crime on a daily basis.
Accomplishments of the Virginia Tech Victims Families
Education Dept. Releases New Rules on
Student-Privacy Law, Giving Colleges More Room for
Judgment: Chronicle of Higher Education (09 Dec 2008)
By SARA LIPKA
More regulations may expand the thicket of student-privacy law, but the
U.S. Department of Education hopes a new 289-page guide will help
colleges and universities find their way.
The Education Department plans to release today its
new rules on the Family
Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which protects the disclosure of
student records. After announcing initial regulations in March, the
department received more than 120 comments from higher-education
associations, university systems, and other groups, and postponed the
final publication originally slated for September.
The egulations do not revolutionize the law, which is known as Ferpa
or the Buckley Amendment, but they update and
clarify some of its
After the mass-shootings at Virginia Tech in April
2007, investigations revealed widespread views of Ferpa as a
muzzle that prevented faculty and staff members from sharing
information about potentially troubled students. Today the Education
Department roundly dispels that impression.
The new rules-which consolidate and expand upon
guidance the department has issued to individual
institutions over the past several years-also discuss two
recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions involving Ferpa, changes in
related laws like the USA Patriot Act, and
trends in information technology and
university administration. In a lengthy preamble, department officials
meticulously explain their reasoning and diction.
Responding to dozens of subtle qualms, the Education
Department "added a great deal of discussion and
interpretation that fills in some of those question
marks," Steven J. McDonald, general counsel of the Rhode Island School
of Design and a national expert on Ferpa, said on Monday. The
regulations' more-explicit deference to college officials' judgment of
what constitutes an emergency, as well as what information to disclose
in that situation, and to whom, comes as an "enormous relief," he
"People can now make decisions based on what they
think is the right thing to do, rather than an
unwarranted fear of liability," Mr. McDonald said.
'Rational Basis' for Disclosures
There is no color-coded threat-level scale for campus
crises. But the Education Department had previously
implied that safety could trump
privacy only in dire situations.
Colleges should make "narrowly tailored" disclosures
only when a "specific situation presents imminent
danger or threat," LeRoy S. Rooker, director of the department's
Family Policy Compliance Office, wrote in a
letter of guidance to the Alabama Department of
Education in 2004. He gave a few examples, including
terrorist attacks and polio outbreaks.
In the wake of the tragedy at Virginia Tech, many
observers wondered why professors and administrators
hadn't shared concerns earlier about the disturbing
behavior of the gunman, Seung-Hui Cho.
Before and after the shootings at Virginia Tech, the
Education Department made more room for
disclosures of student information, but the new regulations go
further. They strike the "strict construction"
standard that, in existing regulations, had defined an
emergency. Under the new rules, colleges
may disclose information about someone "if there is an articulable and
significant threat to the health or safety of the student or other
Ferpa experts were already promoting that
interpretation of the law, but the shift in the new regulations is
vital, said Peter F. Lake, director of the Center for Excellence in
Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University.
"This undoes an entire era of regulatory approach to
Ferpa, and it's none too
soon," Mr. Lake said on Monday. "These new regulations are much more
consistent with original Congressional intent and give a lot more
flexibility to higher-education administrations to engage in
reasonable efforts to protect their campuses
The new regulations impose a "rational basis" test on
colleges' decisions to disclose information in
emergency situations. "The Department will not
substitute its judgment for that of the agency or institution if,
based on the information available at the time
* there is a rational basis
for the agency’s or institution’s determination that a health or
safety emergency exists," the introduction
The message there should be clear, Mr. Rooker said on Monday.
"We wanted to strike that balance between privacy and
safety and certainly emphasize that safety on a campus
is paramount," he said. "As long as
you can articulate what that emergency was, we're not going to be in
the business of second-guessing you on that."
Still, according to the new rules, administrators must
document what emergency circumstances prompted their
decision to disclose information. That
record may serve as a rationale to curious students and parents, as
well as to the Education Department, the preamble says.
'Direct Control' Over Contractors
Another area of focus in the new regulations is the
role of contractors in protecting students' privacy.
As colleges have outsourced so many
student services, third parties' relationship with Ferpa has remained
In March, the Education Department said those contractors
had to be under institutions' "direct control" to be eligible for
access to protected student information. Several comments on the
proposed regulations questioned the meaning of that phrase or
suggested deleting it.
The final rules preserve the phrase "direct control,"
but the introduction explains that the standard is not as
strict as it sounds. Contracts with third parties who handle student
information must reflect that the information is owned by the
institutions and governed by Ferpa, the regulations say. Those
contracts may even specify a penalty for misusing student records, Mr.
That explanation will probably satisfy college
officials who had worried about how much supervision the Education
Department expected of them, said Ada Meloy, general counsel of the
American Council on Education, which challenged that point in its
comment on the proposed rules.
"You don't actually have to be in their office controlling everything
they do," Ms. Meloy said.
Among the other updates and revisions in the new
regulations is one concerning what information may be
included in colleges' directories.
The proposed regulations had restricted the use of student
identification numbers, which they equated with Social Security
numbers. But in response to many comments arguing that ID numbers do
not unlock further information the way Social Security numbers do, the
new regulations do allow ID numbers in directories. Removing those
numbers would have wreaked havoc on many campuses'
information-technology systems, experts said.
The new regulations also specify that colleges cannot
require students to sign confidentiality pledges if,
as victims of sexual assault, they are
informed of the results of disciplinary proceedings against their
assailants. That provision conforms with the Education Department's
finding in a recent case involving the University of Virginia.
The rules released today speak to many other groups
and situations. They establish that online students
are protected under Ferpa. They allow
different colleges to share information-not just related to admissions
decisions-about students who transfer. They clarify Ferpa's "study
exception," spelling out what must be included in agreements between
institutions and groups conducting research with student data. And
they stipulate how student records scrubbed of
identifying information can be released, a matter now
pending between the University of North
Dakota and that state's attorney general.
Effective in 30 Days
The new regulations will send campuses scrambling during a busy season.
They take effect in 30 days.
Ms. Meloy fretted over that. "It's very difficult," she said, "for
institutions to just turn on a dime."
But the new rules may require colleges to do more in the way of
thorough reviews and revisions than in making sweeping changes.
"We'll certainly need to be looking at these
[regulations] and thinking about steps we need to
take," Mr. McDonald, of the Rhode Island School of
Design, said. For example, colleges will have to develop policies to
document their decisions about what constitutes an emergency, he said.
And they may need to create systems for sharing information with
institutions to or from which students have transferred.
Mr. Rooker said that colleges should consider the Education Department
a partner as these rules take effect.
"We cover a lot of ground in these regs. That's why
there are so many pages," he said. "We are
anticipating a lot of follow-up questions."
The provisions regarding contractors may be a hot
area, experts said on Monday. For example, the new
regulations mention the outsourcing of
students' e-mail accounts to Microsoft and Google, but they do not
give specific guidance on those arrangements.
Still, colleges shouldn't panic over the 30-day clock,
Mr. Rooker said. "We're not going to be out there on
Day 31 trying to find institutions that
didn't comply in some form," he said. "We would want
to be out there helping them understand."
Over all, the regulations struck some experts as
collaborative in tone. While some government regulations scold
practitioners and slam doors, these largely give colleges the benefit
of the doubt, said Mr. Lake, of the higher-education-law center.
"A lot of lawyers are going to tell their clients, Well, this is
great," he said. "There's a feeling of trust."
Indeed, the introduction to the new rules acknowledges
administrators' hard work. "Educational agencies and
institutions face considerable
challenges, especially with regard to maintaining safe campuses,
protecting personally identifiable information in students’
records, and responding to requests for data on student progress," it
Mr. Lake thinks that approach bodes well. "The day-to-day
administrator * the person who's always been out there operating in
good faith," he said, "can breathe deeper tomorrow."
ANOTHER MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THE VTV FAMILY -