The communications breakdowns, gaps in the mental health system, and confusion over student privacy laws involved in the Virginia Tech massacre might take years to correct and require action by the federal government, members of the investigating panel told the Washington Post. The panel report concluded that Virginia Tech officials could have saved lives by warning students earlier that two students had been shot and that the killer had not been caught. It said that a judge ordered Seung Hui Cho to be treated for mental health issues but that he never received it.
Much of the report focuses on federal privacy laws designed to protect sensitive information about students. Mental health officials are so worried about following those laws that they often withhold information that can legally be shared with others, the panel concluded. “I think the one thing that caught the panel by surprise was the magnitude of the problems today in our mental health system,” panel chairman W. Gerald Massengill said. “This is an issue that has national implications, because this is not a problem unique to Virginia.”