Virginia Tech fined $55,000 for slow response to 2007 shooting

Four years after student Seung-hui Cho shot and killed 32 students and faculty members on the Virginia Tech campus before taking his own life, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) has fined the school $55,000 for not warning students in a timely manner. According to a letter from the DOE to Virginia Tech President Charles Steger, the school waited for more than two hours to notify students following the first shootings on campus.

The Associated Press reports that the fine is the greatest amount officials can impose on the university for a violation of the Clery Act, which requires institutions of higher education to disclose information about campus crimes and emergencies to students. All institutions that participate in federal financial aid programs for their students are subject to the legislature.

“While Virginia Tech’s violations warrant a fine far in excess of what is currently permissible under the statute, the Department’s fine authority is limited," Mary Gust, director of the panel that ultimately decided on the penalty, wrote in a letter to Virginia Tech.

The university, however, intends to appeal the fine.

“The only reason we want to appeal this is that it gives us the process to explain how a notice given on one campus can be OK if it’s this long, and a notice given on another campus is not OK if it’s this short a time period,” University spokesman Larry Hincker is quoted as saying. “As best we can tell, it’s whatever DOE decides after the fact.” Virginia Tech has until April 29 to file an appeal.

According to the article, Virginia Tech argues that the DOE did not specify what constituted a "timely" reponse to a campus emergency until after the 2007 shootings.

To read more about the Virginia Tech shootings, click here.

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