College Workplace Violence Again Illustrates Importance of Workplace Violence Prevention Training Programs

Posted by Melissa Fleischer, Esq. on Dec 8th 2011

Almost unbelievable!  Another shooting at Virginia Tech.  Today, December 8, 2011 around noon, while pulling over someone on campus for a routine traffic stop, a police officer was shot and killed at Virginia Tech.  The college immediately notified students via their new emergency notification system that was not yet in existence during the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007.  In addition, campus police also found another victim who had been shot and killed in a nearby campus parking lot. 

What does this mean for Virginia Tech?  Still reeling from the deadly massacre there in April 2007 when 32 people were shot and killed including students and faculty members, the school scrambled to get it right this time.  Virginia Tech was recently fined by the government $55,000 because of their failure to properly and promptly notify students that there was a shooter on campus.  Since then, Virginia Tech has now implemented an emergency notification system by which they can instantly notify students, faculty members and staff via their cell phones that there is a shooter on campus and that the school is in lockdown mode. 

What was Virginia Tech’s fine based on?  Their alleged violation of a relatively unknown law called the 1990 Clery Act.  It was named after a 19 year old girl who was brutally murdered in her dorm on her college campus in 1986.  The law requires college campuses to disclose crime statistics to incoming students and also places other requirements on the colleges in an effort to improve campus safety.  The government alleged that Virginia Tech violated the law because it did not notify the students of the danger of the campus shooter in a timely manner.  Had it done so, some of the killings might have been prevented.   The Act was recently  amended ironically as a result of the massacre at Virginia Tech in 2007 to require colleges and universities to have in place emergency notification systems for violence on campus as well as other additional requirements. 

This only further illustrates how important it is for both colleges and universities as well as all employers to have in place well-drafted workplace violence prevention policies and procedures and to provide workplace violence prevention training to all members of your workplace.