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April 18, 2007: A bow — in Virginia Tech's orange — makes for a solemn marker on campus.
Virginia Tech officials "failed to issue adequate warnings in a timely manner" as a lone gunman stalked students and faculty on April 16, 2007, the Department of Education just announced.
Thirty-one people were killed. The gunman, student Seung-Hui Cho, took his own life at the scene.
The department's final report on the university's response to the events of that tragic day concludes that Virginia Tech violated federal laws that require "timely" warnings when dangers that might be "a threat to students and employees" are known to exist. The department's report is posted here. It states that:
"In all, more than two hours elapsed between the time University officials became aware of the first shootings (and the first murder) and the issuance of the first vague warning."
The university, which has disputed the findings, faces the possibility of fines and a loss of some federal aid.
University spokesman Larry Hincker told The Roanoke Times today that "this action provides little guidance to the higher education community. Today’s ruling could add even more confusion as to what constitutes a 'timely warning' at a time when unambiguous guidance is needed. It appears that timely warning is whatever the Department of Education decides after the fact."
Andy Goddard, parent of a student who was wounded, spoke to the newspaper about the report and said "nothing new, in there for us. ... But it's nice to see that other people have got the message."