Va. Tech Could Have Saved Lives

The final report prepared by the State of Virginia into the shootings at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) provides strong evidence to support negligence or wrongful death lawsuits by the shooting victims’ families. The report lays blame for the incident on the upper echelon, including University President Charles Steger and Police Chief Wendell Finchum. Faulty communication all around is at the heart of the tragedy, from Seung Hui Cho’s high school to his mental health providers, back to Virginia Tech. However, in order for a lawsuit against the state and/or the University to be successful, plaintiffs need to prove the deaths of their children were caused directly by the mistakes made by the University and/or the state.

The response of the University did receive a tidbit of leniency:

“”There does not seem to be a plausible scenario of a university response to the double homicide that could have prevented the tragedy of considerable magnitude on April 16,” the report said. “Cho had started on a mission of fulfilling a fantasy of revenge.”

In other words, when it came to response to the first killing in the dormitory, little more could have been done that would have prevented Cho from accomplishing his goal. Since response doesn’t seem to be the cause, then it must have been earlier, back when Cho wrote a short story at Virginia Tech outlining his revenge fantasy. Or was it before the short story, back when he sought treatment at a mental health center and received none?

How far back in Cho’s life should we go in order to assign responsibility? How large should the net be with which we can drag in responsible parties? Case law limits this “net.” Should it still be so limited? Since Columbine, “blame” is far-flung when it comes to the safety of our children. We know the University is to blame based on the report – they should have weeded out Cho from the student population. But they deflect the attack claiming they didn’t have accurate information from the mental health system. The police claim the same defense, not having received the short story. What about the high school – perhaps his records should have been submitted to the college instead of remaining in the basement archives? Finally we begin to sniff around his family, his elementary school teachers, perhaps his first pediatrician. At what point could the monster have been stopped and should that be the ultimate limit of the responsibility net? At what point are the various systems exonerated of responsibility?

On the other hand, when does the killer finally take all the blame?

 

Posted by C. Bekhor

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