Virginia Tech panel recommends school security reforms

By SUE LINDSEY and DIONNE WALKER

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Virginia Tech recommended monitoring troubled students and increasing security Wednesday in an internal report that didn’t address one of the most troubling questions about the massacre: Should administrators have locked down the campus after the first two deaths?

In an outside report due next week, a panel established by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine is expected to examine that issue and the other actions school staff took in the two hours between the killings of two people in a dormitory and the deaths of 31 more in a classroom building.

University President Charles Steger acknowledged the school could have taken some steps it didn’t.

“Looking back, yeah, there are some things that are obvious that, gee, maybe you should have done that, but I think at the time we were doing the best we could, and we’re going to learn from this and try to make it a more secure campus,” he said.

But he again defended the university’s decision not to lock down buildings after the first two shootings.

“Such a lockdown is simply not feasible on a campus that’s the size of a small city,” he said.

Steger himself said the judgment on the staff’s reaction will have to come from outside the school, and he said he had recommended Kaine set up the separate panel to investigate the handling of the shootings as well as student gunman Seung-Hui Cho’s background.

“It’s essential that there be an objective assessment for it to be credible,” Steger said.

Steger had named committees to look at counseling services, security and communication following the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

In calling for creation of a team of police, counselors and other university personnel to monitor students who may pose a threat to themselves or others, the counseling committee said Tech needs a better system to deal with such students.

The university also should improve security with interior locks on classroom doors and Internet-based message boards alerting the campus of emergencies, the panels said.

The university’s security committee recommended instructing students on what to do in emergencies: installing interior locks on 157 general assignment classrooms, removing “drop bar” door handles that can be chained, and installing electronic key card access to academic and administrative buildings.

Tech recently required that the cards be used 24 hours a day.