Friday, March 10, 2017


The Student Scholastic Board

There is a standard cover page that accompanied Cho’s transcripts to Tech. On the lower right corner of that page there is a section marked The Student Scholastic Record under which there are boxes to be checked. There is a subheading labeled “Special Services Files.” There are six boxes: Contract Services, ESL, 504 Plan, Gifted and Talented, Homebound, and Special Education. Only the ESL box was checked for Cho. There was no indication that he had Special Education treatment for psychological problems. The university, then, had no inkling of Cho’s past problems or treatment. Thus, the first warning sign was absent.

The excuse for not checking this box was “personal privacy.” One common fear is that an individual will be stigmatized or denied opportunities because of a mental or physical disability. The fact is that the Family Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) does allow secondary schools to disclose educational records (including special education records) to a university. The law simply prohibits a school from making a “preadmission inquiry” about the specifics of the applicant’s disability. After admission, the school can make a confidential inquiry about the disability. Therefore, the failure to check the box demonstrated a misunderstanding of the law—not to mention lack of common sense. Furthermore, a nonspecific reference to a special need can help, not hinder or prejudice, a school in meeting students’ needs once accepted.

If the excuse for not checking the box on The Student Scholastic Record was the Virginia Tech killer’s right to personal privacy, what about the rights of those he killed and wounded? Cho had rights, but he had no right to kill and wound others. We frequently hear the argument personal rights; personal freedoms of the killers as an excuse for ignorance and incompetence. People use that argument to explain and justify incompetence. This line of argument and justification is unconscionable; it is repugnant. (To be continued)

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