Nearly three years after the massacre at Virginia Tech, the lower house of the Virginia legislature has neither the will nor the backbone to pass truly effective legislation to make the state’s college campuses safer. What a shame, in a state that has suffered two of the most serious school shootings—the Appalachian School of Law (three dead and two wounded) and Virginia Tech (32 dead and 17 wounded)—the lower house shies away from its duties to the citizenry.
The lower house does just enough to say it has done something, but not enough to make a difference. Most recently, the Virginia house significantly weakened state Senator Edwards’ bill to amend and reenact the Code of Virginia relating to crisis and emergency management for public institutions of higher learning. Specifically, members of the lower house took exception to university presidents and other school officials having to certify they comprehend and understand the school’s emergency plan—a plan that they play a role in creating. Here is the sentence as it cleared and passed the senate unanimously:
“In addition, the members of the threat assessment team, as defined …(by law)…, and the president and vice-president of each institution of higher education, or in the case of the Virginia Military Institute, the superintendent, shall annually certify in writing to the Department of Emergency Management comprehension and understanding of the institution’s crisis and emergency management plan.”
Here is the sentence the lower house insisted on and appears in the final bill:
“In addition, the president and vice-president of each public institution of higher education, or in the case of the Virginia Military Institute, the superintendent, shall annually (i) review the institution’s crisis and emergency management plan; (ii) certify in writing that the president and vice-president, or the superintendent, have reviewed the plan; and (iii) make recommendations to the institution for appropriate changes to the plan.”
Stop to think what members of the Virginia legislature have done, they have said that presidents of our colleges and universities do not have to comprehend and understand a document that is critical to the security of our children. Incredible, absolutely incredible!
While the State Senate had passed the original bill unanimously, the House of Delegates balked over a critical detail. The two most ardent opponents of the legislation—they wouldn’t vote for it in any form—were Delegates Nutter (an employee of Virginia Tech) and Poindexter, a far right-wing politician who tried to derail the reappointment of Judge William Alexander, the judge who ruled that the lawsuit against Virginia Tech President Steger and other school officials could go forward.
If you read the official reports of both the shootings at Columbine and Virginia Tech, there is repeated emphasis on schools’ security plans and the role of those plans in preventing campus shootings. Now, according to the Virginia lower house, the presidents of the states’ colleges and universities do not have to understand those plans!
The House of Delegates should be ashamed of itself.