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Virginia Tech Tragedy and the Law

As our nation continues to mourn the victims of the senseless Virginia Tech massacre, many bloggers' thoughts turn to the question of whether this tragedy could have prevented or whether others like it can be prevented in the future.  While now's not the time to assign blame (and indeed, without additional information, we really can't make any definitive judgments), here's a list of some of the issues that will be generating additional discussion in the weeks to come:

Restrictions on universities. At Overlawyered, Walter Olson offers a round-up of articles that describe various laws such as the Buckley Amendment (FERPA), the HIPAA medical-privacy law and disabled-rights law, which constrain universities from inquiring about the mental health of students, notifying parents about suicidal tendencies or taking other action to deal with mentally ill students who may pose a threat to themselves or others. In particular, Olson recommends Tamar Lewin's New York Times piece Law Limits Options When Students Are Mentally Ill and links to this thread at Volokh discussing anti-discrimination laws.

Gun Control Laws. Naturally, the Virginia Tech shootings have revived debates over gun control, including this appeal by Walter Shapiro in Salon magazine entitled Repeal the Second Amendment.

The Limits of Technology. After the tragedy, some have argued that Virginia Tech could have made better use of technology and communications systems to warn students of danger following the first two killings in the dorm. But as Ryan Singel writes here in Wired, though improvements in communication systems are critical, the problem of notification is only partly attributable to technology. There's also the importance of making sure that the recipients of the communication actually take the message seriously. As another post stresses, at the end of the day, technology isn't going to ever protect us fully against these kinds of unexpected acts of horror.

Silent Blogs. April 30 has been designated as One Day of Blog Silence, to honor the Virginia Tech victims, as well as "all other victims of the world." But Diane Levin of Mediation Blog won't be participating. As she writes here:

Why be silent? What is the point? Why not use this as an opportunity to speak out? To rage against the machine? To stand up for whatever cause you believe in that will reduce human suffering or end violence? Provide better treatment and interventions for the mentally ill? Increase safety on college campuses? Take action against handgun violence? End the war in Iraq? The crisis in Darfur? Any one of the thousand conflagrations that burn around the world?  Or, better yet, get away from the keyboard and actually do something?  It will be business as usual at this blog on Monday, April 30. I won't be silent.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on April 20, 2007 at 06:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)


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