Friday, August 31, 2007

The Virginia Tech Massacre

There's a saying that if you want to stop teenage problems, stick a baby in a bottle and when its 12 put a cork in it. Seung-Hui Cho was way beyond ordinary teenage problems. Yet there's a mindset now that universities and schools should be fortresses. Cho was very sick, yet smart enough to exploit the loopholes of university life. The thing is, that no matter how many holes are closed by increased security, a person intent on finding a hole will find one. Maximum security prisons have lost prisoners.

Since the insane Cho rampage there has been a lot of finger pointing, breast beating and downright anger about Tech. Security was slow. Well, what did you expect? There has never been a shooting at Tech. Campus security does not normally handle this kind of thing. They're used to parking tickets and student brawls. I'm sure they did what seemed right at the time. It's not the fault of Tech. The fault is Cho's. He did the shooting.

Super cop movies have given us unrealistic expectations of police and security. There probably are some James Bond's and John MClane's out there but that's not the norm. In the movies the good guys have a certainty that only comes from knowing the plot ahead of time. Movies have also given us unrealistic expectations about bad guys. There are no markings on potential killers. They don't wear weird hair or have especially nasty tattoos or sneer in a certain way (wait! that's my brother – kidding!). Even if they did, the law can't act on suspicion of possible intent. The law can't act until the deed is committed or being committed.

Cho was a crazy guy who didn't get all the help he needed. In hindsight, it can be shown that he fit a profile for crazy killers. Sure, one teacher thought he was dangerous, but one teacher isn't enough. There could have been a personality conflict. It happens. Evidence needs to build. Perhaps if all of Cho's teachers, roommates and friends had been interviewed the school would have had good evidence of his serious problem. Finding the evidence required time and people the university either didn't have or didn't feel motivated to use. But that's normal. That's what happens around here. Maybe his high school could have told Tech about Cho's problems if they hadn't been bound by privacy laws. Perhaps his parents would have let Tech know that their son needed help if they had thought his condition was serious. Cho was an adult. It was his job to manage his health care. He didn't.

The best thing to do is to learn from Cho. Virginia Commonwealth University has by creating an emergency notification system that combines cell phones, campus TVs and sirens. Tech has created a similar system. We all need to learn a lot more about mental instability and insanity. We need to focus on developing healthy, active and sociable people. If we do those things then most of our problems will go away.

Locking up schools isn't going to fix anything. Especially if the killer is locked up inside.

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails