Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Randall is Wrong

On December 26, 2010, the Roanoke Times ran a blog by a retired Professor from Virginia Tech saying that Tech did not violate the Clery Act. The following is my response to him:

Randall is Wrong

Professor Clifford Randall’s contention that Virginia Tech did not violate the Clery Act is just flat out wrong. His words are an annoying combination of arrogance, self-delusion, incorrect facts, and omissions of critical information.

For Professor Randall to imply that the victims’ families have anything but the best of motives in trying to get at the truth is indicative of just how shallow and superficial an individual he is. Does he really think that $100,000.00 makes up for the loss of a son, daughter, or spouse? Having been there personally, I know that it is absolutely critical to the recovery and healing process to have complete openness and honesty about what happened. I know what it is to have a granddaughter who is psychologically damaged from a school shooting. She was seven when her mother was gunned down; I know what it is to have a son turn to alcohol because he blames himself for not being there to protect Angie. I know what it is like to find that son an emotional wreck and living in squalor in Baltimore. Professor Randall, do not lecture any of the victims’ families over their actions following these school shootings—you do not have that right. I don’t care if you have lost hundreds of friends. For you to imply that the loss of a friend is the same as child is both na├»ve and absurd.

You, Professor Randall, are the one who is misguided and ill informed. You are the one whose motives need to be looked into, not the families. I would argue that the school’s repeated failure to be candid and honest made the families’ legal actions necessary. I would argue that you were part of the Steger clique and your motive is to protect your buddies, not get at the truth. If Virginia’s schools are ever to be made safe, we have to have a complete and honest analysis of what happened—the Department of Education’s findings are part of that honesty. How can you possibly oppose that?

Professor Randall, if you look at the two school shootings here in Virginia you will see parallels in the profiles of the killers, parallels in the schools’ ignoring warning signs, and parallels in incompetent responses by people in positions of authority on the days of the shootings. At some point these incompetents need to be held accountable. It is my contention, that the cover-up that took place at the Appalachian School of Law made a Virginia Tech-type shooting inevitable. To cover up any aspect of what happened on April 16, 2007, lays the groundwork for future campus shootings. So yes, the families do hope that their actions will save lives. It is a mystery to me how any college professor can miss that point.

Randall states that the purpose of the Clery Act is “to ensure that the number of crimes committed on college campuses would be public knowledge so that parents and students could use the crime rate as a factor when selection a college.” In fact the purpose of the act is to ensure that faculty, staff, and students are warned about acts of violence on campus and can take precautionary measures.

As for the Clery Act, Professor Randall neglects to tell readers that Virginia Tech bought and paid for an expert opinion that the school did not violate the Clery Act. Tech paid $9,000.00 to Dolores A. Stafford, President and CEO of Stafford & Associates and a former police chief at George Washington University to write an opinion that the school did not violate federal law. As a reward, Tech then hired Ms. Stafford for thousands of dollars more to do work on security issues at the Blacksburg campus. Ms. Stafford may have accepted as much as $30,000.00 from the school. With that much money changing hands, how can anyone think she is not a hired gun? To think that greed did not influence her opinion is sheer folly.

Randall swallows hook, line and sinker the idea that the police were justified in assuming that the double homicide was a love triangle and the police zeroed in on Emily Hilscher’s boy friend to the exclusion of all other possibilities. Crime analysis #101 teaches not to exclude any possibility at a crime scene especially when there are bloody footprints leading away from the murder scene. Freshmen crime students know that, but apparently Chief Flinchum and President Steger were ignorant of that very basic principle.

Professor Randall claims that lockdowns are now knee jerk reactions on campus. That is simply not true—he gives no evidence. The only “jerks” are those who don’t take precautionary measures when confronted with a double homicide. As for the lockdown, Professor Randall fails to note that Virginia Tech Veterinary School lockdown because of the threat and he fails to note that the school president’s office was locked. An even more telling omission is the fact that Henry Lee and Rachel Hill were allowed to leave West Ambler Johnston Hall and were subsequently murdered in Norris Hall. Had West Ambler Johnston been locked down, those two young people would be alive today. That is a fact Professor Randall, not speculation. Why didn’t you mention that?

Virginia Tech violated its own security standard set in August 2006. At that time the school locked down when William Morva escaped from a nearby prison and killed a law enforcement officer and a guard. Virginia Tech locked down when there was no evidence a killer was on campus, and took no action when all the evidence pointed to the fact that the killer was on campus. How do you explain this and other inconsistencies, Professor Randall?

Professor Randall, have you actually read Department of Education’s final report? If you have did you ask yourself the following:

1. If you knew that there was no suspect, no witness, no weapon, and bloody footprints leaving the area, what would you think was possible as far as a shooter location? Would you wait 48 hours to let your campus know?

2. Are you an expert in the Clery Act?

3. Have you ever read what was Virginia Tech’s timely warning procedure in effect on April 16, 2007? What does it say?

4. Do you have ANY evidence that the Chief of Police EVER prepared a communication to be released to the campus and community as per the required timely warning procedure in effect on April 16, 2007?

5. Do you find it acceptable that there was enough time for secret emails to be going to Richmond describing what was happening but not to release that information? How about the fact that communications about trash and bank activities were stopped, phone calls were made by some Policy Group meeting attendees to their families about the shooting, various buildings and local schools were locked down, and even school and town SWAT teams were deployed, yet, only a few people on campus knew what was happening over an hour before Norris Hall happened?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

VIRGINIA TECH BROKE THE LAW

Feds: Va. Tech broke law in '07 shooting response

By DENA POTTER


RICHMOND, Va. — Federal education officials have found Virginia Tech broke the law when it waited two hours to warn the campus that a gunman was on the loose, too late to save 30 students and faculty who went to class and were killed in the 2007 rampage.

The U.S. Department of Education issued a report Thursday rejecting the university's defense of its conduct and confirming that the school violated the Clery Act, which requires that students and employees be notified of on-campus threats.

The report concludes that the university failed to issue a timely warning to the Blacksburg campus after student Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed two students in a dormitory early on the morning of April 16, 2007.

"Virginia Tech's failure to issue timely warnings about the serious and ongoing threat deprived its students and employees of vital, time-sensitive information and denied them the opportunity to take adequate steps to provide for their own safety," the report stated.

Virginia Tech officials did not send an e-mail to the campus community about the shootings until two hours later, about the time Cho was chaining shut the doors to a classroom building where he killed 30 more students and faculty, then himself.

The federal department first found that Tech broke the law in January, but the university had its chance to respond to the allegations.

That response was soundly rejected in Thursday's report, which brought satisfaction for some victims' family members who have repeatedly called for more accountability from school officials for their actions on the day of the shootings.

The university could lose some or all of the $98 million in student financial aid it receives from the federal government, and could be fined up to $55,000 for two violations — failing to issue a timely warning and not following its own emergency notification policy.

Any sanctions will be decided by a Department of Education panel and federal officials have not provided a timeline for when sanctions might be announced. Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hincker said the school likely will appeal any sanctions. University president Charles Steger was traveling and unavailable for comment, Hincker said.

Some of the arguments in Tech's defense centered around the definition of a "timely" warning. The university argued there was no definition of "timely" until two years after the shooting, when the DOE required schools to immediately notify people on campus upon confirmation of a dangerous situation or an immediate threat.

The university argued that the definition of "timely" is still not clear.

"Today's ruling could add even more confusion as to what constitutes a 'timely warning' at a time when unambiguous guidance is needed," Hincker said. "It appears that timely warning is whatever the Department of Education decides after the fact."

The federal report countered that since 2005, the Department of Education has stated that the determination of whether a warning is timely is based on the nature of the crime and the continuing danger to the campus.

While Thursday's finding makes official the federal verdict for the university, it echoes some of the conclusions already made by a state commission that investigated the shootings. That panel also found that the university erred by failing to notify the campus sooner.

The state reached an $11 million settlement with many of the victims' families. Two families have filed suit and are seeking $10 million in damages from university officials. A judge recently ruled those lawsuits could move forward.

One victim's mother was satisfied that the federal report included actions that Virginia Tech officials took to protect themselves that morning. Victims' families had long wanted those details included in the report of the state commission.

"They couldn't fine enough money for what happened that day and how it altered our lives," said Suzanne Grimes, whose son Kevin Sterne was injured in the shootings. "It's more about the truth of what happened. That's what I sought for all these years."

The university said one official advised her son to go to class anyway, while another only called to arrange for a baby sitter.

But the federal report notes a few actions on campus after word of the shootings spread but before the e-mail warning was sent: a continuing education center was locked down; an official directed that the doors to his office be locked; the university's veterinary college was locked down; and campus trash pickup was suspended.

"If the university had provided an appropriate timely warning after the first shootings (in the dormitory), the other members of the campus community may have had enough time to take similar actions to protect themselves," the report said.

S. Daniel Carter, director of public policy for Security On Campus, a nonprofit organization that monitors the Clery Act, said he found Virginia Tech's response troubling.

"Our fundamental goal is not to place blame, but to make sure students are kept safer," he said of the Act. "But their policy arguments would be very detrimental to protecting students all across the country if they were to be accepted."

The Clery Act requires colleges and universities to report information about campus crime. To receive federal student financial aid, the schools must report crimes and security policies and provide warning of campus threats. It is named after Jeanne Ann Clery, a 19-year-old university freshman who was raped and murdered in her Lehigh University dormitory in 1986. Her parents later learned that dozens of violent crimes had been committed on her campus in the three years before her death.

The report also found:

_The university's e-mail stated only that "a shooting incident occurred" and that the community should be cautious. The report said that could have led recipients to think the shooting was accidental and that it failed to give students and employees the "information they needed for their own protection."

_The warning would have reached more students and employees and "may have saved lives" if it had been sent before the 9:05 a.m. classes began.

_That Tech's warning policy — which is required under the Clery Act — was vague and did not provide the campus with the types of events that would warrant a warning, who would deliver it or how it would be transmitted.

_The university's process for issuing a warning was complicated and not well understood even by senior officials.

The financial impact for Tech is not decided. An expert on the federal Clery Act said loss of federal aid is unlikely.

Carter said reviews based on the law are relatively rare and that the Virginia Tech review was the 35th in two decades. No school has ever lost federal funding, and the largest fine to be levied was $350,000 against Eastern Michigan University for failing to report the rape and murder of a student in a dormitory in 2006.

___

Associated Press Writer Steve Szkotak contributed to this report.

Monday, December 6, 2010

McDonnell’s Shell Game

Governor McDonnell intends to privatize Virginia’s mental health care system, arguing it will save money. Privatization of mental health care, however, will cost Virginians millions of dollars more than if it were left in the hands of a state organization. While many private health care providers are decent and highly motivated, the governor nevertheless appears willing to open the door to special interest groups whose goals are self-enrichment, not better health care. The governor appears poised to guarantee private companies a profit (as much as 10%) for running mental health care. McDonnell proposes to line the pockets of individuals who will get rich on the problems, sufferings, and illnesses of others.

McDonnell’s privatization plans break promises made after the shooting at Virginia Tech. Following the Tech tragedy, Richmond promised more money for mental health services. Indeed, the state did allocate money for mental health and indicated that it would be a high priority. However, the state then cut the mental health budget by 15%, and the following year by another 15%. Virginia now spends less on mental health than it did before the Tech shootings.

McDonnell was Attorney General when the promises were made. He did not object to those promises—his silence was tantamount to concurrence.

The governor bases his policy on the fallacy that privatizing will make the system more efficient. It is not logical to assume that paying private firms less money for decentralized mental health care will result in better treatment and reduced costs. If mental health care is turned over to private companies the state will need an office to guarantee the quality of privately run patient care. That office will cost money.

Privatization includes decentralization of mental health care. Decentralization will mean a loss of economy of scale. Some individuals should be in larger institutions where they can get better care; they need to be away from the rest of society. McDonnell’s decentralized mental health system would do away with these larger institutions. Well meaning, but unqualified people working for less money will be hired. The quality of care will suffer. People will not be cured nor will they be turned into individuals who can function in society. People will not get the care they need; some will be turned away or turned out. Many or most will turn to crime, and when arrested the electorate will have to spend more money on jails. Meanwhile, private providers will get richer and richer.

Governor McDonnell is a graduate of a Christian school that prides itself on teaching family and Christian values. The governor is quick to point out how much he respects and promotes those values. Unfortunately, his policies are the exact opposite of his words. Privatization of mental health care will mean families will suffer; families that are in no position to defend themselves. Tax dollars will go to guarantee profits to contributors to the governor’s political campaigns, not to help vulnerable people, many in desperate need of help.

The governor can find money to repair roads, but not human beings.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

TRIAL GOES FORWARD

Judge William Alexander II ruled on November 22, 2010, that the lawsuit against Virginia Tech President Charles Steger and former Executive Vice President James A. Hyatt will go forward, and he set September 2011 for the trial date. Steger and Hyatt are being sued for $10 million by the parents of Julia Pryde and Erin Peterson, two of the students killed on the April 16, 2007 massacre. The other families of the dead and wounded settled with the state, in part to assure that the wounded students’ medical bills would be paid.

In an earlier challenge to the suit, Judge Alexander ruled there is enough evidence of gross negligence to warrant a jury trial. His latest decision reaffirms that decision and denies the defense argument that Steger and Hyatt are protected by sovereign immunity—a doctrine rooted in monarchical traditions that states the state and its institutions are free from lawsuits or grievances. In rendering his decision, Judge Alexander said, “I don’t see President Steger as helping to run the government.”

Robert Hall, the attorney for the Pryde and Peterson families, argued that only 25 percent of Steger’s $600,000 annual compensation comes from state funds. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Hall asserted that because Steger is allowed to serve on the governing boards of companies doing business with the school and its affiliates (conflict of interest?), his job is inconsistent with being a government official.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

VIRGINIA TECH CONFERENCE

I HAD THE HONOR OF BEING INVITED TO PARTICIPATE IN VIRGINIA TECH’S INTERNATIONAL SUMMIT ON TRANSDISCIPLINEARY APPROACHES TO VIOLENCE PREVENTION AND THE STUDENT RESEARCH SYMPOSIUM ON VIOLENCE PREVENTION HELD IN BLACKSBURG FROM NOVEMBER 12 TO 14, 2010. I DEVOTED MY TIME TO THE STUDENT SYMPOSIUM, WHERE I HEARD INCREDIBLY IMPRESSIVE AND DEDICATED YOUNG PEOPLE TALK ABOUT VIOLENCE PREVENTION. LISTENING TO THE IDEAS OF THOSE DEDICATED AND BRIGHT YOUNG STUDENTS WAS TRULY AN INSPIRATION.

THE FOLLOWING ARE MY COMMENTS AT THE OPEING SESSION I FACILITATED:

THANK YOU PROFESSOR NOWAK FOR SPONSORING THIS SYMPOSIUM. I MUST BEGIN BY SAYING THAT I AM SOMEWHAT CONCERNED THAT WE ARE SITING ON THE CAMPUS WHERE THE MOST HORRIFIC MASS MURDER TOOK PLACE IN THIS COUNTRY’S HISTORY—WE ARE ATTENDING AN INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE AND A SYMPOSIUM ON VIOLENCE PREVENTION, AND YET THERE HAS BEEN NO MENTION OF THAT TRAGEDY. I FIND THIS FACT TROUBLING. SO, AS A TRIBUTE TO THE MEMORY OF THOSE 32 INNOCENT VICTIMS OF APRIL 16, 2007 SLAUGHTER, I WOULD LIKE TO DEDICATE THIS SESSION TO THEIR MEMORY.

I WOULD ALSO LIKE TO RECOGNIZE YOU PROFESSOR NOWAK. ALL OF US HERE KNOW THAT YOU LOST YOUR WIFE IN THE SHOOTING. YOU AND YOUR FAMILY PAID A TERRIBLE PRICE THAT APRIL DAY, YET YOU HAVE TURNED A TRAGEDY INTO SOMETHING EXTREMELY POSITIVE, “THE CENTER FOR PEACE STUDIES & VIOLENCE PRVENTION,” WHICH IS SPONSORING THIS SYMPOSIUM. I KNOW I SPEAK FOR EVERY ONE IN THIS ROOM IN EXPRESSNG THANKS AND ADMIRATION FOR YOUR WORK. SPECIFICALLY THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE “CENTER FOR PEACE STUDIES AND VIOLENCE PROVENTION” WHICH IS AN OUTSTANDING AND FITTING WAY TO HONOR THE MEMORY OF THOSE 32 INNOCENT INDIVIDUALS.

IT IS AN HONOR FOR ME TO SIT ON THIS PANEL –I BELIEVE THAT IT IS ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL TO BRING IN THE MINDS AND IDEAS OF YOUNG PEOPLE SUCH SEATED IN THIS ROOM INTO TACKING THE PROBLEM OF VIOLENCE,—ESPECIALLY IF WE ARE EVERY TO MAKE PROGRESS IN PREVENTING THE ALL TOO FREQUENT SLAUGHTER THAT HAS OCCURRED ON OUR NATION’S CAMPUSES.

WHEN PROFESSOR NOWAK ASKED ME TO PARTICIPATE, I ASKED WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO SAY? HE SAID PERHAPS SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR BACKGROUND. THIS SYMPOSIUM, HOWEVER IS NOT ABOUT ME; IT IS NOT ABOUT ANYONE IN ATTENDENCE OR THE PEOPLE SPEAKING, IT IS ABOUT FINDING WAYS TO PREVENT VIOLENCE. IF ANYONE WANTS TO KNOW MORE ABOUT ME, I HAVE A SHORT BIO YOU CAN PICK UP AT THE END OF THE SESSION. IF ANY OF YOU SUFFER FROM INSOMNEIA, PICK UP MY BIO—YOU WILL BE SOUND ASLEEP AT THE END OF THE SECOND SENTENCE.

WHAT I WANT YOU TO KNOW IS THAT MY JOURNEY IN THIS QUEST TO FIND ANSWERS TO PREVENTING WANTON VIOLENCE BEGAN ON JANUARY 16, 2002, WHEN THE MOTHER OF MY OLDEST GRANDCHILD WAS GUNNED DOWN ON THE CAMPUS OF THE APPALACHIAN SCHOOL OF LAW—LESS THAN 200 MILES FROM WHERE WE SIT.

THE PARALLELS BETWEEN THAT SHOOTING AND THE SHOOTINGS HERE AT VIRGINIA TECH ARE FRIGHTENING. PARALLELS IN THE PROFILES OF THE KILLERS, PARALELS IN THE FAILURE OF PEOPLE IN POSITIONS OF AUTHORITY TO HEED THE WARNING SIGNS, PARALLELS IN THE POOR RESPONSES AT THE TIME OF THE SHOOTING (IN BOTH CASES COSTING LIVES), AND PARALLELS IN THE LACK OF CANDOR IN RAISING QUESTIONS AS TO WHAT WENT WRONG. THERE WERE ALSO FAILURES TO IDENTIFY INDIVIDUALS WHO FAILED IN THEIR RESPONSIBILITIES (AND TO HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE), FAILURES OF LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS TO DO THEIR JOBS, AND A WILLINGNESS OF POLITICIANS ON BOTH SIDES OF THE ISLE TO GLOSS OVER HARSH REALITIES OF BOTH TRAGEDIES AND IN SO DOING, TO CREATE A COVER-UP.

ONE LAST THING—BEFORE THE PAPERS ARE PRESENTED. I TAKE NO MONEY FOR ANYTHING I DO RELATED TO THE SHOOTINGS AT THE APPALACHIAN SCHOOL OF LAW OR VIRGINIA TECH. I HAVE WRITTEN A BOOK ENTITLED “A QUESTION OF ACCOUNTABILITY: THE MURDER OF ANGELA DALES” THAT DISECTS THE LAW SCHOOL KILLILNGS. ALL OF THE PROCEEDS FROM THAT BOOK GO TO MY GRANDCHILD AND CHARITIES HERE IN VIRGINIA. I WORK CLOSELY WITH THE FAMILIES OF THE VICTIMS OF THE VIRGINIA TECH SHOOTING, BUT DO NOT SPEAK FOR THEM. MY TEXT BOOK ON INTELLIGENCE AND CRIME ANALYSIS (DUE OUT IN THE SPRING OF 2011) CONTAINS A MAJOR CASE STUDY EXERCISE EXAMINING THE FATALLY FLAWED GOVERNOR’S REVIEW PANEL REPORT ON THE SHOOTINGS HERE AT TECH.

AT THE REQUEST OF SOME OF THE VIRGINIA TECH VICTIMS’ FAMILIES I WROTE AN ANALYSIS OF THE GOVERNOR’S REVIEW PANEL REPORT AND THE ADDENDUM TO THAT REPORT. IF ANY OF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN COPIES OF THOSE TWO DOCUMENTS, I HAVE CLIP BOARD AND PLEASE PUT YOUR NAME, ORGANIZATION OR SCHOOL YOU REPRESENT, AND YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS. FOR OTHER WRITNGS OF MINE ON THE SCHOOL SHOOTINGS—YOU CAN ACCESS MY BLOG BY GOING TO MY WEB SITE—WWW.AQUESTIONOFACCOUNTABILITY.COM

AND NOW, I WOULD LIKE TO INTRODCE THE FIRST SPEAKER.

SENATOR WEBB RESPONDS

Senator Webb’s office phoned yesterday (November 17, 2010) to say that the final version of the Department of Education’s report on the mass killings at Virginia Tech would be out in the next two weeks. Both Virginia senators have now responded to the letter I sent them in August asking for the status of the report.

I have yet to hear from Congressman Rob Wittman, a graduate of Virginia Tech. Wittman has been singularly unresponsive to any request I have made regarding the events of April 16, 2007. What a shame, and we just re-elected him. You would think that as part of the “Hokie Nation,” Wittman would be in the forefront of the quest for answers. Apparently not.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

RESPONSE FROM WARNER—MORE DOUBLE_TALK

The following is the letter I received from Senator Warner dealing with my inquiry concerning the delay in the publication of the Department of Education’s report on the Virginia Tech tragedy. I also include the letter from the Department of Education to Senator Warner. Please note the run-around and the lack of response to my specific questions. My initial request was dated August 14, 2010 and was sent certified return receipt mail to Senators Warner and Webb and Congressman Whittman. I asked for information on when the Department of Education’s report on Virginia Tech would be released. I received nothing from Senator Webb and nothing from Congressman Whitman. Today is November 9, 2010. Nearly two months of silence and referrals—all I want to know is when the report will be published.

October 28, 2010

United States Senate

Dear Mr. Cariens,

Enclosed you will find the response from the U..S. Department of Education to my inquiry on your behalf. I hope that the information provided will be helpful and responsive to your specific concerns.

My staff and I stand ready to be of assistance to you in any other matter that is of concern to you. Thank you.

Sincerely,

(Signed)

Mark R. Warner

United States Senator

Now for the Department of Education:

United States Department of Education

Office of Legislative and Congressional Affairs

October 14, 2010

Honorable Mark Warner

United States Senator

Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Warner,

Thank you for your letter on behalf of David S. Cariens, Jr. I appreciate your interest in this matter and have referred your letter to the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools for a direct reply. That office has the expertise to assist your constituent. I am confident they will make every effort to be helpful.

If this office can be of further assistance, please feel free to contact my staff or me.

Sincerely

(Signed)

Gabriella Gomez

Assistant Secretary

Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Northern Neck News

I was interviewed by the Northern Neck News on October 28th. Below is the article that appeared on November 2, 2010, based on that interview.

NORTHUMBERLAND COUNTY

Burgess man is a voice of accountability

By Dianne Saison

The tragic murder of a family member was crippling, but the subsequent lies and cover-up are what forced a Burgess man into action.

David Cariens, Jr., a retired CIA officer with 31 years of experience in criminal and political analysis, had once looked forward to spending his retirement surrounded by family at his Northumberland home. However, on one cold winter morning, everything changed.

“We had heard about a shooting at the Appalachian School of Law and we were worried, but we never thought it would be our Angie,” Cariens said.

What followed would bring Cariens out of retirement and into the spotlight of victim’s rights advocacy.

Angela Dales, a student at the school, was the mother of Cariens’ eldest grandchild and a much-loved family member. She had recently made plans for both she and her daughter to move in with the Cariens while she interned in Richmond.

“Angela was a wonderful human being. She was pretty and vivacious and had the type of personality that was magnetic,” Cariens said. “She epitomized all that life should be.”

On Jan. 16, 2002, Dales was studying at the school lounge when the unthinkable unfolded.

Peter Odighizuwa, a native of Nigeria, had a history of mental health issues. His tenure as a student at the School of Law was riddled with numerous altercations involving both students and faculty.

In the weeks preceding the shooting, numerous media outlets reported that faculty members had voiced concerns to school administrators about Odighizuwa. Citing fears for their safety, the faculty requested that security measures be taken, but their pleas fell on deaf ears.

On Jan. 15, after failing the semester, Odighizuwa was dismissed from the school.

The following morning, Odighizuwa arrived at the campus and engaged in an altercation with Professor Dale Rubin over his recent dismissal. Despite Odighizuwa’s erratic behavior during the exchange, Rubin failed to report the incident to either the police or school staff, instead leaving campus to go to lunch.

Within hours of the incident, Odighizuwa returned to the campus with a loaded .380 semiautomatic pistol. He proceeded to the administration building where he shot, execution style, Dean Anthony Sutin and Professor Thomas Blackwell. Odighizuwa then ventured downstairs to the student lounge, walked up to Dales and fired three rounds into her at point blank range. After shooting three more female students, Odighizuwa was taken down by fellow students and apprehended by the police.

In the ensuing chaos, Dales was left unattended. Despite the close proximity of the school to the local hospital, she went without medical attention for nearly an hour while medical professionals mistakenly assumed she had been mortally wounded.

According to Cariens, the lack of immediate medical attention contributed to Dales’ death.

“She was shot in the neck, shoulder and chest,” Cariens said. “When the doctor arrived he had wrongly assumed she had been hit in the carotid artery and that nothing could be done. While she bled to death, they helped the less injured.”

Cariens added that had the doctors or police followed the basic rules of triage, Dales would have had a good shot at surviving the shooting.

“We wanted to know why Angie wasn’t evacuated immediately,” Cariens said.

He added that the lack of accountability extended from medical personnel to the highest offices at the college.

""The school ignored the warning signs and the result was the death of innocent people,” Cariens said, adding that Odighizuwa’s behavior had been ignored or excused for many years.

In the months fol lowing the shooting, the Dales and Cariens families looked to the school for answers as to why a known, mentally unstable individual had been allowed on campus and why, after the first shooting, an emergency evacuation of the school had not been ordered.

According to Cariens, their grief was met by evasiveness and deception, which culminated in a meeting where police stonewalled the families after they asked about Odighizuwa’s prior criminal history and recent email threats that Dales had received.

“I left that meeting furious. Did they think we were stupid?” Cariens asked. “Having been lied to and yelled at was the turning point.”

Following the meeting, Cariens began writing his recent book, “A Question of Accountability: The Murder of Angela Dales.” The book details the shooting and the alleged cover up that followed.

According to Cariens, while Angela’s death nearly paralyzed him with grief, writing the book nearly killed him.

“I was [physically] sick almost every day that I was writing it and I subsequently came down with cancer,” he said. “My wife said that I had to stop, but I couldn’t. It took over two years to complete.”

Cariens said he was not the only one suffering from illness. After the shooting, Dales’ father was diagnosed with stressinduced spinal meningitis, an illness he continues to struggle with today.

“These are the stories no one hears about, what happens after [a tragedy],” Cariens said.

While helping the Dales family pursue a lawsuit against the school, Cariens began advocating for better regulations in Virginia’s mental health system and regulations regarding the purchase of guns.

“I think it is a given that we could absolutely reduce crime if we could put more money into mental health,” Cariens said, adding that the recent $1.5 billion found in VDOT accounts could be used for things more important than infrastructure repair.

“I would rather the toilets [at highway rest stops] remain closed and spend the money on mental health [programs]. To not do so would be poor judgment,” he said.

Cariens’ advocacy also has brought him into the spectrum of victims’ families from the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, many of whom he now works closely with.

Cariens, who has actively criticized the events following the initial shooting at Virginia Tech, claims the school violated the Cleary Act, which requires colleges and universities across the United States to disclose information about crime on and around their campuses.

“The critical issue at Virginia Tech is what happened after the first homicides,” Cariens said. “You have bloody footprints leading away from a crime and two or three hours later 30 people are dead. What was law enforcement doing in that critical timeframe?”

On Nov. 12, Cariens will act as chairman and give opening remarks at the first International Summit and Student Symposium on Violence Prevention and Conflict Resolution at the Virginia Tech campus.

Cariens also has traveled the world, teaching intelligence and criminal analysis to various governmental agencies from Canada to Singapore. He has incorporated his book and his experiences at both Appalachia and with Virginia Tech into his lectures. His next book, “Critical Thinking Through Writing: Intelligence and Crime Analysis,” includes a case study of what he believes to be a major cover-up in the former Gov. Tim Kaine’s Review Panel Report on the Virginia Tech massacre.

“If you want to see classic use of passive voice to cover up a crime, read that report,” Cariens said.

While he holds the administrators of Appalachia and Virginia Tech personally responsible for the tragedies, he said the issues of school safety remain societal. He hopes that students and government officials will understand that change needs to occur if Virginia wants to protect its students.

“No matter what people’s political leanings are, we should all work in tandem to bring greater security to our schools,” he said. “Both shootings were inevitable because of bureaucratic incompetence. Until we hold people accountable for school shootings, they will not stop.”

The proceeds of Cariens book are split between his granddaughter and charities on the Northern Neck. He has not made any money from either the book or his advocacy. For more information, visit www.aquestionofaccount ability.com .

Sunday, October 10, 2010

ONLY SENATOR WARNER HAS RESPONDED

In mid-August, 2010, I send a letter to Virginia Senators Warner and Webb as well as Congressman Whittman asking that they check into the delay in releasing the final report of the U.S. Department of Education’s findings that Virginia Tech violated federal law (the Clery Act) on the April 16, 2007. Only Senator Warner has replied. Below is his letter:

United States Senate

Washington, D.C. 20510-4606

September 16, 2010

Mr. David Cariens

1666 Balls Neck Road

Kilmarnock, Virginia 22482

Dear Mr. Cariens,

Thank you for contacting me regarding the delay in DOE’s final report on the mass murder at Virginia Tech. I’ve taken the liberty of contacting the U.S. Department of Education on your behalf asking hat they review your concerns and get back to me with a detailed and appropriate response.

As soon as I receive a reply, I will again be in touch with you. Please do not hesitate to contact me about other matters that are of concern to your.

Sincerely,

Mark R. Warner (signed)

United States Senator

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

THE BLACK SWAN REVISITED

Virginia Tech cited the “Black Swan” concept in defense of itself following the Department of Education’s findings that it violated federal law—the Cleary Act—on the morning of April 16, 2007, by not warning students, faculty, and staff of an imminent threat.

I have now read Nassim Taleb’s “The Black Swan” and nothing could be further from the truth. The school’s use of the “Black Swan” defense is tantamount to intellectual dishonesty. What a shame that a great academic institution stooping to such duplicitous measures. The school’s willingness to distort the “Black Swan” is yet another indication of how bankrupt its position is. In fact, Tech’s willingness to distort the “Black Swan” as it desperately grasps for excuses only underscores the indefensible actions of the Steger administration.

If you read Taleb’s book, he says that a “Black Swan” event has several characteristics. First and foremost is that nothing in the past can point to its possibility. Here he cites a turkey that is fed lots of food for months on end, and then a few weeks before Thanksgiving, the farmer cuts off his head. For the turkey, nothing pointed to its imminent demise—the head-lopping was a total surprise; it was a “Black Swan.”

Was that true in the case of Cho and Virginia Tech? I don’t think so. Do I really have to repeat all the warning signs? How many times does the Steger administration have to be reminded that an English professor threatened to resign unless Cho was removed from her class? She feared for the lives of her students and herself. Does the school really have to be told again that a judge ruled that Cho was an imminent danger to himself as a result of mental illness? Has the school forgotten that Cho’s behavior toward women got him into trouble with campus police? Circuit Court Judge Alexander has ruled that there is ample evidence of negligence on the part of school President Steger and others—enough evidence for a lawsuit to go forward against them. I could go on and on.

The school neglects to tell the reader that Taleb also says that “some events can be rare and consequential, but somewhat predictable, particularly to those who are prepared for them and have the tools to understand them… .” Taleb calls these events “near Black Swans.” The events of April 16, 2007, appear to fall into that category. I would remind Virginia Tech that just because something is unlikely, does not mean that it is not predictable. There was ample evidence that Cho might harm himself or others and the school found every excuse it could to avoid confronting those indications and doing something about them.

No matter how much the Steger administration twists and turns, the facts are the facts. The school’s inaction before the tragedy of April 16, 2007, makes the Steger administration liable for the murders that terrible day.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Letter to Congressman Wittman

Congressman Wittman,

I have listened to two of your telephone forums recently. You repeatedly raise the point that we have to bring government spending under control and spend our resources wisely. I assume you also mean that for the federal government and the state of Virginia. Therefore, I would like to call to your attention that Virginia Tech spent around $700,000.00 on a public relations firm to spin the story of the April 16, 2007 shooting tragedy.

You are a graduate of Virginia Tech, and I am sure you are appalled by this waste of taxpayer money. The university has a public relations office; the school has some of the best minds in the country. To spend a small fortune in an attempt to manipulate the facts surrounding the worst mass shooting in this country’s history is not just inexcusable, it is unconscionable.

Virginia Tech receives federal funds. Would you be willing to launch an investigation of why and how this public relations firm was hired, and who authorized this waste of taxpayers’ money?

In both the school shootings at the Appalachian School of Law on January 16, 2002 and Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007, the police refused to cooperate with either the victims’ families or in the case of Virginia Tech, the governor’s investigative panel.

Would you be willing to sponsor legislation making it a crime for police documents to be withheld from victims’ families and any investigative body looking into mass killings?

Would you also be willing to sponsor a group of volunteers made up of victims’ families representatives and individuals selected by the state of Virginia to review what information was withheld from the law school and Tech shootings, and why? The group would need subpoena power, should not include any individual who has had, or currently has, business dealings with the state, and should be headed by someone selected by the victims’ families. Congressman Wittman, given your professions—a lawyer and a politician—you are well acquainted with the principle of “limiting information in order to guide or obscure the conclusions.” That is what happened in the case of both shootings here in Virginia.

The preliminary findings of the Department of Education’s investigation into the shootings at Virginia Tech conclude the school violated the Clery Act, and Virginia Tech may be liable to penalties and fines. If there was gross negligence on the part of school President Charles Steger’s administration, would you support the removal of those individuals who were grossly negligent?

Congressman Wittman, it is my sincere hope that your are not one of those politicians who believes that the primary goal of politics is to keep from the electorate the information they most need to know—particularly when that information concerns the murder of our children and loved ones.

Yours sincerely,

David S. Cariens, Jr.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Webb, Warner, Wittman

Senator Jim Webb

United States Senate

248 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20510

Senator Mark Warner

United States Senate

459A Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20510

Congressman Rob Wittman

United States House of Representatives

1318 Longworth HOB

Washington, D.C. 20515

Gentlemen:

As the three of you know, the Department of Education’s (DOE) preliminary findings in connection with the mass murder at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007, found the university in violation of the Clergy Act. The school is therefore liable to finds and/or loss of federal funding. The final report was due out in June, 2010. It is now mid-August.

The delay in issuing the final report is both troubling and disturbing.

Another school year is starting. It is of paramount importance that the DOE report be issued soon and that Tech be held accountable. If there is no accountability, there is no incentive to make our universities and colleges safe. Universities and colleges across the country need this report in order to learn.

This a great opportunity for the three of you to put party differences aside and work together to make our campuses safe and secure learning environments.

Would you gentlemen please check and find out the reason for the delay in issuing the DOE report?

Thanking you in advance,

Yours sincerely,


David S. Cariens, Jr.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

WE DON'T SEEM TO LEARN

Good people make terrible decisions with horrific results. The more I delve into the school shootings in this country, the more apparent that fact becomes. It also becomes crystal clear that our society needs to hold people accountable for their actions and inactions--particularly when they result in death. I am not talking about revenge; I am talking about removing people who clearly do not understand the law, override experts in mental health, or do not do their job.

Many of the poor decisions I am talking about are made for fear of lawsuits or to protect careers. I have documented the incredibly poor decisions made by people in positions of authority in connection with the shootings at the Appalachian School of Law and Virginia Tech. I was recently reminded of similar poor decisions made in connection with the murder of a freshman student at the University of California, Berkeley.

On October 26, 1969, Prosenjit Poddar, murdered Tanya Tarasoff. Poddar had met Tarasoff at a social event, fell in love with her and proposed marriage. When Tarasoff rejected the proposal, Poddar began stalking her.

Poddar voluntarily sought psychiatric help, saying he had thoughts of violence and getting even with Tarasoff. He had around eight sessions of out-patient therapy with Dr. Warren Moore over a period of two and a half months. When Dr. Moore challenged him about his violent tendencies, Poddar became angry and broke off therapy.

On August 20, 1969, Dr. Moore called the campus police and reported that Poddar was dangerous to himself and others. He provided the police with a letter from the acting head of the psychiatric department concurring with his diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenic reaction, acute and severe. Dr. Moore proposed a 72-hour emergency detention order if the police would pick Poddar up and take him to the hospital.

Three police officers interviewed Poddar, and based on their interview, decided Poddar was not dangerous and did not detain him. To my knowledge, none of those officers had any experience or training in mental health, but they over-rode the recommendations of two highly trained mental health experts.

No one warned Tanya Tarasoff or her family of the threat Poddar posed.

On October 27, 1969, Poddar found Tarasoff alone at home shot her with a pallet gun and then chased her into the back yard where he stabbed her to death with a kitchen knife.

You have to ask, when will we learn? If people use a bad word or tell an off-color joke they are reprimanded, sanctioned, or may even lose their jobs. Often these are things that would not have even turned a head in the 1960s, but we do not seem to have learned anything from the 1969 shooting at UC Berkeley. People in authority make wrong decisions, ignore experts, or do not comply with existing laws, resulting in student murders—and still nothing happens, no one is held responsible.

In 2002, people in positions of authority ignored the warning signs at the Appalachian School of Law—requests for campus security from the faculty, the soon-to-be murderer taking over classrooms and ranting and raving, a doctor calling the killer a time-bomb waiting to go off, police ignoring the very basic rules of triage and allowing a critically wounded student to bleed to death when the hospital was 10 minutes away—I could go on and on.

Then on April 16, 2007, there was Virginia Tech. Volumes could be written about the warning signs centering on Cho. He was deemed a threat to himself and others, but no one put his name on the list making him ineligible to buy guns in the state of Virginia, faculty members threatened to resign because he was a danger to students and faculty alike. On top of this, the school administration broke its own security rules on the morning of April 16, 2007, and as a result 30 people were slaughtered at Norris Hall. And again, no one is held accountable.

To make matters worse, the state of Virginia paid a small fortune to a contracting firm to write a report that covers-up, glosses over, or does not address many of the actions that would make people culpable and accountable.

Some argue that there is no way to prevent these tragedies like these; that the future is not predictable. It is true that we cannot predict the future, but we should be able to learn from the past. We can learn from 1969, 2002, and 2007. If we will finally face the hard facts and realities of what led to these shootings, if we can make people in positions of authority accountable for their actions or inactions, we can prevent some of these kinds of shootings from happening again. We can learn from the past, and we can adopt laws that keep guns out of the hands of those who have been deemed a threat to themselves and others.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Daniel Carter Answers Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech’s response to the Department of Education’s findings that it violated federal laws when it failed to issue a campus-wide warning following April 16, 2007, contains quotes from S. Daniel Carter. Carter is the Director of Public Policy, Security on Campus, Inc. The problem is Tech’s quotes are misleading. The following is Daniel Carter’s response to Virginia Tech:

Review of Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University

Campus Security Program Review Report & Response

June 4, 2010

By S. Daniel Carter

Introduction

Following a complaint from Security On Campus, Inc. on August 20, 2007, the U.S. Department of Education issued a Campus Security Program Review Report on January 21, 2010; finding Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University had violated two aspects of the Jeanne Clery Act’s timely warning requirements. Both findings related to the handling of two related shooting incidents at the campus on April 16, 2007, in which 32 students and employees were killed. This review addresses key issues raised by the institution in their response to the initial findings.


Timeliness Violation

The institution contends that, under the guidelines in effect on April 16, 2007, institutions had up to “two business days” in order to issue warnings. In support of this contention, they cite an article written by me, Covering Crime on College Campuses which was published in a 2000 issue of The Quill, stating that warnings “should be made in less than two business days.” This statement is taken out of context and most significantly predates additional guidance promulgated by the U.S. Department of Education in 2005 that established, for the first time, clearer expectations on institutions.

The Handbook for Campus Crime Reporting, published in 2005, clearly states that the U.S. Department of Education interprets the timely warning requirement of the Clery Act to require institutions to issue them “as soon as the pertinent information is available.” It is this standard -- and no other -- that the Department clearly applies in this case. Additional guidance is also stated in the Handbook, supporting the view that at least by 2005, the Department expected some, if not all, warnings to be issued in far-less than two business days. On page 51, when addressing the need for institutions to collect crime report information from all the various officials who are subject to the Clery Act, the Handbook states: “Emphasize the importance of the campus security authority’s role in providing crime reports on an immediate basis to the individual or office responsible for issuing timely warnings.” (emphasis added)

Furthermore, on page 87, there is a sample statement of timely warning policy for institutions to refer to as a guide. It states relevantly that “in all situations that could pose an immediate threat to the community and individuals, the Office of Public Safety may also post a notice on the campus-wide electronic bulletin board” (emphasis added). The use of this type of electronic communication reflects an ongoing evolution of the timely warning requirement which, when first adopted, was often complied with exclusively using paper flyers (which still remain an important channel institutions can use). As technology has permitted institutions to issue warnings more rapidly and widely, expectations have evolved along with these changes.

Incidentally, the institution’s 2007 Annual Security Report, released after the shootings, incorporated this sample language verbatim into their statement of timely warning policy, stating that “in all situations that could pose an immediate threat to the community and individuals, University Relations may also post a notice on the Virginia Tech homepage (www.vt.edu) or utilize the “VT Alerts” automated notification system.” (emphasis added)

The analysis in the Department of Educations’s Campus Security Program Review Report (p. 6) documents the times when various institutional officials and campus security authorities, including the Chief of Police and President, became aware of the “pertinent” details of the initial shooting of two students in West Ambler Johnston (WAJ) Hall no later than 8:10 AM, with the Chief receiving information prior to that. While the institution contests certain details, it is uncontested that the Chief of Police and President were aware of a double shooting. At a minimum, this event would be defined as two aggravated assaults for Clery Act reporting purposes – thus, subject to the timely warning requirement, with an unknown suspect at-large. This is clearly an analysis of when the “pertinent” facts about this incident were available to the decision makers. It is not, as contended by the institution, an application of the confirmation of an emergency guidelines enacted into law in 2008 and into regulation in 2010.

Finally, my reference to warnings being made “in less than two business days” was an articulation – over six-years prior to the tragedy under review – of our best understanding at the time of the Department’s outer limit expectations on warnings. It should not be construed or misrepresented as an endorsement of that timeframe, nor as stating that institutions automatically were granted such a duration for all possible scenarios.

As published in the April 29, 1994 issue of the Federal Register, the Secretary of Education expressed that the appropriate response, including timeframe of issuing the warning, “must be decided on a case-by-case basis in light of all the facts surrounding a crime.” While two business days may have possibly been appropriate in certain contexts, this was never the intention in cases involving more immediate threats.

In this case, the Department undertook an analysis under this longstanding guideline. Based on the facts specific to this case, as to what was appropriate, the Department determined that a warning should have been issued earlier. This, along with the capacity to evaluate based on the totality of an institution’s actions whether or not they have determined there is an ongoing threat, is an enforcement option that is necessary in order for this requirement to have any substantive meaning.

Policy Violations

The statement of timely warning policy published by the institution in 2006, and in effect on April 16, 2007, stated that the Virginia Tech Police Department was responsible for deciding when to issue warnings, as well as actually issuing the warnings. It is uncontested that on April 16, 2007 the University Policy Group, functioning under the institution’s emergency response plan, assumed responsibility for issuing public communications, including the eventual issuance of a “warning” about the initial shootings; and then multiple communications about the second shooting incident.

We concur that having a “redundancy of critical decision making paths,” as the institution has termed this approach after the tragedy, is essential in being capable to successfully comply with Clery Act requirements and to effectively respond in emergency situations. However; this redundant or alternative decision making path was undisclosed to the campus community in the institution’s Annual Security Report, as required by Clery Act guidelines. That, rather than the appropriateness of the alternative, is the issue here.

The fundamental purpose of the Jeanne Clery Act is to ensure that current and prospective campus community members can make informed decisions about campus safety issues. By failing to disclose alternatives to published policies that an institution may elect to follow, the campus community is denied an opportunity to make fully informed decisions and hold decision makers accountable. The problem is simple: if institutions are allowed to apply alternatives at will to their published policies, then the Clery Act is fundamentally undermined.

Conclusion

The institution argues that nobody could have foreseen the mass-shooting occurring after the earlier shooting. Yet, this distracts from the significant problems which occur when institutions ignore established guidelines intended to ensure the protection of all campus communities during emergencies when the complete nature of some threats may remain unknown. An institution’s policies are the transparent lens through which decision makers are viewed and ultimately held accountable. Allowing institutions to arbitrarily move the policy goalposts is an unacceptable limitation of the public’s right to know.

It is our fervant hope that the Education Department will stand by these principals and sustain the substantive findings of the initial Program Review Report issued January 21, 2010.

S. Daniel Carter

Director of Public Policy

Security On Campus, Inc.

133 Ivy Lane, Suite 200

King Of Prussia, PA 19406-2101

Toll Free: 1-888-251-7959

Office: (610) 768-9330

Fax: (610) 768-0646

http://www.securityoncampus.org