Tech pays $32,500 Department of Education fine
Payment ends substantial federal investigation of 2007 events
“The university elected to pay the $32,500 fine in February to close this chapter on the tragedy of April 16, 2007,” said Tech Spokesperson Larry Hincker.
Virginia Tech paid a $32,500 fine in February after a review by the U.S. Department of Education concluded it failed to respond appropriately during the 2007 campus shooting which left 32 dead.
The fine follows a November ruling by the Virginia Supreme Court in a wrongful-death suit filed by two victims’ families which said Virginia Tech did not act inappropriately during the attack. While the family argued the university should have warned the general community after the first two students were shot, the Virginia Supreme Court overturned a previous circuit court decision in favor of the university.
“In this case, we hold that even if there was a special relationship between the Commonwealth and students of Virginia Tech […] there was no duty for the Commonwealth to warn students about the potential for criminal acts by third parties,” the decision read.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan disagreed with the decision, saying Virginia Tech was in violation of the Clery Act, which outlines how all colleges and universities that participate in federal financial aid programs should handle crime.
The act specifies institutions must “make timely reports to the campus community” when a crime has occurred. Virginia Tech has already paid two previous fines for violating the Clery Act during the shooting. This fine will end legal proceedings regarding the university’s response.
Virginia Tech officials did not fight the DOE fine. The fine falls short of the maximum $55,000 which can be imposed.
“The university elected to pay the $32,500 fine in February to close this chapter on the tragedy of April 16, 2007,” said Larry Hincker, the associate vice president of university relations. “While we believe that the department’s actions against Virginia Tech are inconsistent with their earlier guidance and policy, further litigation was not prudent in light of the various costs — emotional impact on the community, time lost, as well as financial.”
Since the 2007 shooting, Virginia Tech has made significant improvements to its security system. A shooting in 2011 saw a rapid notification response through various communication outlets in the Virginia Tech emergency response system.