Sunday, April 3, 2011

Va Tech Fined $55K for Delayed Notification of a Potential threat on Campus


US Department of Education fined Virginia Tech University for their failure to notify their school community about a potentially ongoing threat to campus safety. On April 16, 2007, when they failed to alert the campus after the discovery of two murdered students at 7:30 am. The 911 call occurred at 7:15 am and the police (Va Tech PD & Blacksburg PD) confirmed the murdered students in a dormitory. Classes start at 8:00 am daily. At 8:52 am, the University President (Stenger) had his office put into a lockdown and off campus PD (Blacksburg PD) placed their public schools into lockdown. Between, 9:05 and 9:15 am the shooter (Seung-Hui Cho) walked into Norton Hall and chained the doors shut. It wasn't until 9:26 am that President Stenger chose to notify the campus by sending out an email to campus staff, faculty, and students about a shooting incident in a dormitory (concerning the 2 murdered students). The campus was not placed in a lockdown nor told that a potential threat and gunmen still existed because they made an assumption that the 7:15 murder was an isolated incident. (In a crisis situation you can never assume away the potential or realization of a threat) At 9:42 am Cho's Norris Hall shooting rampage started and lasted 9 minutes and at the end of the day 33 people were killed.

Points for Consideration:
  • Analyzing past and more recent school shootings is key for school leaders and communities to determine how to best prevent, mitigate, respond, and recover from a horrific act of violence.
  • If the potential for violence, (let alone if a violent act has occurred) you must make decisions based upon worst case scenario and err on the side of caution.
  • President Stenger (ready or not, prepared or not, trained or not) waited entirely too long to put the campus into a lockdown. Two hours after a confirmed double murder on campus did not result in a campus lockdown even after two hours...? Unacceptable. 
  • Educational Leaders (Superintendents, University and College Presidents, Principals) need to ensure they have thought through and "done their homework" to prepare for all hazards, especially acts of violence. 
  • School Leaders will have to make decisions in a crisis with incomplete information, and if an assumption is made it is in preparing and responding to a worst case scenario vice HOPING everything will work out OR encounter the "paralysis of analysis: by trying to come up with the perfect decision vice a good enough decision that protects LIVES first.  
  • School Leaders need to take educate, train, and exercise their organizations and themselves to make good decisions.
    • Taking free online courses from FEMA's Emergency Management Institute (EMI) on:
      • Courses on: Emergency Management Planning for Schools, Emergency Management Planning for Universities, Active Shooter Response, Workplace Violence, and Incident Command Posts  

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