Virginia Tech Report and Information

A report on last year’s Virginia Tech shootings was released last week (full report | executive summary). It highlights a number of sociology of information issues among its findings:

  • Widespread misunderstanding about what privacy laws did and did not prohibit in terms of communicating information about mental to family and school officials
  • Some states report information about mental health to a federal database used to conduct background checks on would-be gun purchasers, but there is ambiguity about what kind of mental health treatment history triggers this action.
  • Errors were made in assuming that initial leads were correct. The report suggests that officials “did not take sufficient action to deal with what might happen if the initial lead proved erroneous.”
  • Notification: “The VTPD erred in not requesting that the Policy Group issue a campus-wide notification that two persons had been killed and that all students and staff should be cautious and alert.”
  • Medical facilities did a good job at providing care but there were many challenges at cross agency communication.
  • “The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner properly discharged the technical aspects of its responsibility ….” but “[c]ommunication with families was poorly handled.”
  • “State systems for rapidly deploying trained professional staff to help families get information, crisis intervention, and referrals to a wide range of resources did not work.”

Author: Dan Ryan

I've been an Academic Program Director at, a professor at University of Toronto, University of Southern California, and Mills College teaching things like human centered design, computational thinking, modeling for policy sciences, and social theory. My current mission is to figure out how to reorganize higher education and exploit technology so that we can teach twice as many twice as well twice as easily.

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