Uphold laws, even in tragic times
Everyone remembers the tragic 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech. Four years later, the U.S. Department of Education is fining the school $55,000 for not acting fast enough to alert students to the gunman's presence. At first it may seem kind of harsh to slam Virginia Tech with a fine — after all, isn't the fact that the shooting occurred enough of a punishment in itself? However, perhaps if Virginia Tech acted timely, fewer lives would have been lost. Also, one must consider that the school technically broke federal law by acting too slowly. The fine, then, makes sense.
The Clery Act is a federal act that requires schools to alert students and staff to on-campus crimes in a speedy manner. Virginia Tech did not send out any notifications regarding the gunman until two hours after the first killings occurred. This is, to put it simply, unacceptable. Two hours is far too long in a situation like this. Students should have been notified immediately. It is hard to believe that it took the school's administration two hours to collect the necessary information to alert students and staff to what was going on. In failing to act quickly, the administration broke federal law. Fining the school, then, is the proper course of action. Breaking laws has consequences.
In that two-hour interval a lot of terrible things happened that could have been avoided had the school acted faster. To look at this scenario in a positive light, perhaps this fine will be a lesson to other schools across the country. It could act as a reminder that the proper precautions must be taken and that time is of the essence. Seung-Hui Cho, the shooter, killed 32 people. Who knows how many of them may have lived, had they only known what was going on.
The fine may seem like a case of adding insult to injury on first read, but there is good reason behind it. It reinforces the importance of following federal guidelines in these situations, and it acts as an unfortunately hard-learned lesson to everyone. Hopefully we'll never see something like this happen again. In case we do, every school in the nation needs to have a viable plan in place to minimize the damage done.