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Virginia Tech Report Criticizes Mental Health System, School Actions

An official committee presents its findings about the April killings of 32 people by a student. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

A committee gave its findings last week about the Virginia Tech shootings in April. The committee appointed by Virginia's governor and led by a retired state police official called for more than seventy changes. The goal is to prevent a similar tragedy in Virginia or anywhere else.

On April sixteenth Seung-Hui Cho, a student, killed thirty-two people and wounded seventeen before killing himself. Among other things, the Virginia Tech Review Panel discussed his mental health history.

In nineteen ninety-nine, he wrote in middle school about killing himself and others. This was after the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado. His teachers thought he should get treatment, which he did.

He also received services in high school. But school officials thought privacy laws prevented sharing this information with Virginia Tech.

There, he caused a number of troubling incidents. The report says the university in Blacksburg did not intervene effectively. It says no one knew all the information and no one put it all together.

The committee pointed to problems with Virginia's mental health system. It also found widespread misunderstanding about federal and state privacy laws.

In two thousand five, a court judged the young man a danger to himself and ordered him to get treatment. But he was not ordered into a hospital. Still, his name should have been added to federal and state lists of people barred from buying guns.

Virginia law did not make that clear. Governor Tim Kaine has moved to deal with this. But Virginia officials found that less than half the states report any mental health information to a federal database used for gun purchases.

At Virginia Tech, emergency services reacted quickly after two people were killed early that morning. But the report says police may have been too quick to decide that a possible suspect was probably no longer in the area. And top administrators are criticized for failing to send out a warning message about the shooting for almost two hours.

Minutes after that, the shootings began in Norris Hall. Still, the committee says quickly securing all buildings would not have been possible.

Some victims' families want the university president and police chief to resign or be dismissed. The governor rejected that idea.

Virginia Tech began a new school year August twentieth, a day after a ceremony for a memorial to the thirty-two victims.

And that's the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Nancy Steinbach. I'm Bob Doughty.