What price would you put on the life of your child or the mother of your granddaughter? Is it $100,000 or $100 million—what sum of money will give you peace? How much money would it take for you to say to yourself—this is the dollar value of my child, this is how much he or she was worth? How would any parent decide what price to put on the life of his or her child?
The answer is—there is no amount of money that can bring any parent to that point. That is exactly how Sue and Danny Dales felt when they left the lawyer’s office in Abingdon having agreed to a final settlement on behalf of their daughter’s estate and their granddaughter. The law asks you to put a price on the life of a member of your family, thinking that once you have settled on a dollar amount you will go away. The legal system wants you to stop asking why; to forget the unanswered questions.
For a set price, the lawsuit on behalf of the estate of Angela Dales and the three wounded students agreed to a settlement on 12 November 2004. The final papers were signed on 30 December 2004. The school, its president, and Professor Rubin were off the hook for 30 pieces of silver. There were no winners. There were only losers. We lost someone we love, the legal system lost because no one will be held accountable, and every parent in Virginia lost because the state’s schools have not learned what it takes to make our children safe.
Had the lawsuit gone forward, the school would have had to defend itself against serious accusations. Greater public awareness of the lack of school safety requirements might have led to an outcry for legislation to make our schools safer and legislation to keep guns out of the hands of mentally disturbed and potentially violent people. Such legislation would be a fitting tribute to those who lost their lives on 16 January 2002; a far better tribute than a plague or a tree. (To be continued)