Thursday, October 9, 2008


If you are getting ready to send your daughter or son to college, part of your selection process should be to familiarize yourself with the prospective school’s security procedures, policies, and emergency plans.

For those of you sending your daughters and sons to school in Virginia these questions are extremely important. I have lived in Virginia for over forty years and all three of my sons went to Virginia colleges and universities. If I were selecting schools for my children today, I would probably not select a Virginia school because of the poor state of campus security—compared to other states. Compounding the problem in Virginia is the fact that the state’s legal system operates under the doctrine of Sovereign Immunity—meaning you have little or no legal recourse against a state school even in cases of gross negligence.

Parents also need to know that if their child is killed or hurt by someone on school grounds, Virginia is one of the most difficult states to prove premises liability. The Virginia Supreme Court time and time again refuses to recognize the responsibility of a business proprietor to protect “its invitees from unreasonable risk of physical harm.” The whole question of “foreseeability” is hard to pin down. But the Supreme Courts of other states do recognize that there is a point where a proprietor can be held responsible for not taking action to protect “its invitees.” Courts in other states do recognize that there comes a point when violent behavior is predictable and a proprietor can be held responsible for ignoring the warning signs.

If the Virginia courts back away from holding people accountable, how will our schools and universities ever be safe?

If you are sending a son or daughter to a college or university, in many instances you do so at a terrible risk.

The following are some questions to ask:

1. Does the school have a plan in place that identifies aberrant behavior, and what steps will the school take to remove potentially dangerous individuals from the campus?

2. Does the school regularly review and update its security procedures?

3. Has the school brought the students into the dialog on what should be done in the case of an emergency?

4. Does the school have a campus-wide warning system in place, such as sirens, text messaging, and cell phone warnings?

5. What is the relationship between campus security and the local and state police? How closely do they cooperate and do they have a coordinated emergency plan?

6. What would happen to a student if he or she were found to have a weapon on campus?

7. How do you define weapons?

8. How quickly can campus security lock-down or secure all buildings on campus?

9. What is the school’s policy on bringing guns (or any weapon on campus including sling shots) onto campus?

10. What is the school’s policy if a student is caught sending harassing or threatening emails to someone?

11. Can a student, staff, or faculty member be directed to seek a psychological evaluation and treatment?

12. How quickly are parents notified if a student is causing a problem or disturbance—or appears to be exhibiting behavior that others consider threatening?

1 comment:

Diane said...

Mr Cariens, thank you so much. I have to agree that VA is a miserablely state to send our loved ones to work or study. Parents & students need to be informed of the "good ole boy" politics & that "sovereign immunity" breeds ineptitude, complacency, & incompetence. The Princeton Review & other college summaries need to emphasize these points.