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The Worst Crime in American History: The Virginia Tech Massacre

UPDATE Nov 2008: IllinoisVictims.org founders act as victim support at their invitation  to the Virginia Tech Victims Families in closed door meetings with Virginia Governor Tim Kaine and submit THIS ADVISORY REPORT on what needs to be done for the victims families.

Below - accomplishments of the VTV family  as they take heroic measures to turn their victimization into solutions to help others.

Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims of the Virginia Tech Massacre on April 16, 2007.  Sadly, the guns legally available to the extremely disturbed and deranged student enabled this horrific act.  We have been working against the gun industry's pro-gun violence agenda for years and this is just one more example of how the gun industry's clients are its own worst enemy. We commend the victims families who have gotten right to work on a variety of issues to prevent future such victimization: Common sense background checks, campus safety, mental health issues.

One of the victims who survived is an Illinois resident, Garrett Evans. He is already working on a wonderful new product, a backpack for students with a powerful alarm in it, to help other students not to suffer as he has. We love victims who get to work on something positive to help others not to be hurt as they have been!

If you would like to do something positive to support these families and reduce gun violence, visit the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence at www.bradycampaign.org.  This is where victims go for help when gun violence strikes.  They sure don't go the gun industry for help.  The gun industry can't, and won't provide help for victims and their families.  Not surprising, really, when you realize they can't admit the fact that they have brought this country to this point of repeated overwhelming tragedies. 

It will take many victims' voices to make a difference and bring sanity back to the gun issue, but we will prevail.  After all, we're only asking the gun industry to cut back on its profitability.  It's not as if they were being asked to give up their precious children.

Contact National Coalition of Victims in Action to join the effort to circulate a petition supporting the victims of this tragedy.

Please, sign the petition in support of the victims of Virginia Tech below.

And to take part in a tribute to the Va Tech victims called a "Lie-In" or to organizer (very easily!) one of your own, go to www.ProtestEasyGuns.com - do a Lie In in your community. Its easy, its powerful, and it will help to make an impact!

 

RESOLUTION 

WHEREAS,  We, the community of victim survivors, victim advocates and support agencies across America, unite in offering our heartfelt sorrow upon the evastating tragedy suffered by the Virginia Tech community.  

 

WHEREAS,  We mourn your terrible loss and share your overwhelming grief.  Individually and collectively, we extend our compassionate understanding and support as you struggle to honor the lives of your loved ones and friends.

 

THEREFORE,   We want the Virginia Tech community and other areas of the country affected by these violent acts including students, faculty, and staff as well as the families of the deceased to know that many stand ready to help rebuild a spirit of hope and healing.

 

THEREFORE, We ask our fellow Americans to join us in this important mission of service.

 

WHEREAS, The importance of families and friends is never as pronounced as during a time of tragedy.

 Additionally we offer the added support of families who have experienced the murder of a loved one and understand the emotional journey you now begin.  For the first time you may realize there is evil in the world, but you will also see unbelievable love and compassion from family, friends and even strangers who share your pain.

We jointly offer support not only to those impacted by the massacre at Virginia Tech, but also to all those victimized by crime on a daily basis. 

 

Sign here.

 

Accomplishments of the Virginia Tech Victims Families

Education Dept. Releases New Rules on Student-Privacy Law, Giving Colleges More Room for Judgment: Chronicle of Higher Education (09 Dec 2008)

By SARA LIPKA
Washington

More regulations may expand the thicket of student-privacy law, but the U.S. Department of Education hopes a new 289-page guide will help
colleges and universities find their way.

The Education Department plans to release today its new rules on the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which protects the disclosure of
student records. After announcing initial regulations in March, the department received more than 120 comments from higher-education
associations, university systems, and other groups, and postponed the final publication originally slated for September.

The egulations do not revolutionize the law, which is known as Ferpa or the Buckley Amendment, but they update and clarify some of its
thorniest parts.

After the mass-shootings at Virginia Tech in April 2007, investigations revealed widespread views of Ferpa as a muzzle that prevented faculty and staff members from sharing information about potentially troubled students. Today the Education Department roundly dispels that impression.

The new rules-which consolidate and expand upon guidance the department has issued to individual institutions over the past several years-also discuss two recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions involving Ferpa, changes in related laws like the USA Patriot Act, and trends in information technology and
university administration. In a lengthy preamble, department officials meticulously explain their reasoning and diction.

Responding to dozens of subtle qualms, the Education Department "added a great deal of discussion and interpretation that fills in some of those question
marks," Steven J. McDonald, general counsel of the Rhode Island School of Design and a national expert on Ferpa, said on Monday. The
regulations' more-explicit deference to college officials' judgment of what constitutes an emergency, as well as what information to disclose
in that situation, and to whom, comes as an "enormous relief," he said.

"People can now make decisions based on what they think is the right thing to do, rather than an unwarranted fear of liability," Mr. McDonald said.

'Rational Basis' for Disclosures

There is no color-coded threat-level scale for campus crises. But the Education Department had previously implied that safety could trump
privacy only in dire situations.

Colleges should make "narrowly tailored" disclosures only when a "specific situation presents imminent danger or threat," LeRoy S. Rooker, director of the department's Family Policy Compliance Office, wrote in a letter of guidance to the Alabama Department of Education in 2004. He gave a few examples, including terrorist attacks and polio outbreaks.

In the wake of the tragedy at Virginia Tech, many observers wondered why professors and administrators hadn't shared concerns earlier about the disturbing behavior of the gunman, Seung-Hui Cho.

Before and after the shootings at Virginia Tech, the Education Department made more room for disclosures of student information, but the new regulations go further. They strike the "strict construction" standard that, in existing regulations, had defined an emergency. Under the new rules, colleges
may disclose information about someone "if there is an articulable and significant threat to the health or safety of the student or other
individuals."

Ferpa experts were already promoting that interpretation of the law, but the shift in the new regulations is vital, said Peter F. Lake, director of the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University.

"This undoes an entire era of regulatory approach to Ferpa, and it's none too soon," Mr. Lake said on Monday. "These new regulations are much more
consistent with original Congressional intent and give a lot more flexibility to higher-education administrations to engage in reasonable efforts to protect their campuses and students."

The new regulations impose a "rational basis" test on colleges' decisions to disclose information in emergency situations. "The Department will not
substitute its judgment for that of the agency or institution if, based on the information available at the time * there is a rational basis
for the agency’s or institution’s determination that a health or safety emergency exists," the introduction says.

The message there should be clear, Mr. Rooker said on Monday.

"We wanted to strike that balance between privacy and safety and certainly emphasize that safety on a campus is paramount," he said. "As long as
you can articulate what that emergency was, we're not going to be in the business of second-guessing you on that."

Still, according to the new rules, administrators must document what emergency circumstances prompted their decision to disclose information. That
record may serve as a rationale to curious students and parents, as well as to the Education Department, the preamble says.

'Direct Control' Over Contractors

Another area of focus in the new regulations is the role of contractors in protecting students' privacy. As colleges have outsourced so many
student services, third parties' relationship with Ferpa has remained murky.

In March, the Education Department said those contractors had to be under institutions' "direct control" to be eligible for access to protected student information. Several comments on the proposed regulations questioned the meaning of that phrase or suggested deleting it.

The final rules preserve the phrase "direct control," but the introduction explains that the standard is not as strict as it sounds. Contracts with third parties who handle student information must reflect that the information is owned by the institutions and governed by Ferpa, the regulations say. Those
contracts may even specify a penalty for misusing student records, Mr. Rooker said.

That explanation will probably satisfy college officials who had worried about how much supervision the Education Department expected of them, said Ada Meloy, general counsel of the American Council on Education, which challenged that point in its comment on the proposed rules.

"You don't actually have to be in their office controlling everything they do," Ms. Meloy said.

Among the other updates and revisions in the new regulations is one concerning what information may be included in colleges' directories.
The proposed regulations had restricted the use of student identification numbers, which they equated with Social Security numbers. But in response to many comments arguing that ID numbers do not unlock further information the way Social Security numbers do, the new regulations do allow ID numbers in directories. Removing those numbers would have wreaked havoc on many campuses' information-technology systems, experts said.

The new regulations also specify that colleges cannot require students to sign confidentiality pledges if, as victims of sexual assault, they are
informed of the results of disciplinary proceedings against their assailants. That provision conforms with the Education Department's
finding in a recent case involving the University of Virginia.

The rules released today speak to many other groups and situations. They establish that online students are protected under Ferpa. They allow
different colleges to share information-not just related to admissions decisions-about students who transfer. They clarify Ferpa's "study
exception," spelling out what must be included in agreements between institutions and groups conducting research with student data. And
they stipulate how student records scrubbed of identifying information can be released, a matter now pending between the University of North
Dakota and that state's attorney general.

Effective in 30 Days

The new regulations will send campuses scrambling during a busy season. They take effect in 30 days.

Ms. Meloy fretted over that. "It's very difficult," she said, "for institutions to just turn on a dime."

But the new rules may require colleges to do more in the way of thorough reviews and revisions than in making sweeping changes.

"We'll certainly need to be looking at these [regulations] and thinking about steps we need to take," Mr. McDonald, of the Rhode Island School of
Design, said. For example, colleges will have to develop policies to document their decisions about what constitutes an emergency, he said. And they may need to create systems for sharing information with institutions to or from which students have transferred.

Mr. Rooker said that colleges should consider the Education Department a partner as these rules take effect.

"We cover a lot of ground in these regs. That's why there are so many pages," he said. "We are anticipating a lot of follow-up questions."

The provisions regarding contractors may be a hot area, experts said on Monday. For example, the new regulations mention the outsourcing of
students' e-mail accounts to Microsoft and Google, but they do not give specific guidance on those arrangements.

Still, colleges shouldn't panic over the 30-day clock, Mr. Rooker said. "We're not going to be out there on Day 31 trying to find institutions that
didn't comply in some form," he said. "We would want to be out there helping them understand."

Over all, the regulations struck some experts as collaborative in tone. While some government regulations scold practitioners and slam doors, these largely give colleges the benefit of the doubt, said Mr. Lake, of the higher-education-law center.

"A lot of lawyers are going to tell their clients, Well, this is great," he said. "There's a feeling of trust."

Indeed, the introduction to the new rules acknowledges administrators' hard work. "Educational agencies and institutions face considerable
challenges, especially with regard to maintaining safe campuses, protecting personally identifiable information in students’ education
records, and responding to requests for data on student progress," it says.

Mr. Lake thinks that approach bodes well. "The day-to-day administrator * the person who's always been out there operating in
good faith," he said, "can breathe deeper tomorrow."

http://saitsanationalnews.blogspot.com/2008/12/education-dept-releases-new-rules-on.html

http://chronicle.com/daily/2008/12/8210n.htm?utm_source=at&utm_medium=en



ANOTHER MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THE VTV FAMILY - THE NICS IMPROVEMENT ACT