Monday, April 16, 2007

Virginia Tech: a needless massacre?

You've probably seen the news of the horrible shooting spree that took place on the Virginia Tech campus today.

When I saw the first reports this morning around 9 am, one student had been shot and the brief summary of the incident noted that the university web site was instructing students to stay in their dorms. Soon afterwards, the shootings started up again and over 20 students were killed.

All this occured while the school was on "lockdown" mode, with entrances to the university blocked and students isolated inside their dorm rooms.

I don't usually comment on the tragedy of the day, but in the case of these latest school shootings at Virginia Tech, I feel compelled to post something that someone else wrote.

In light of this latest tragedy, I thought back to a post that I'd seen at the site in March about the students that died while trapped in their school during an Alabama tornado.

In that instance, school and local officials herded kids into school hallways and refused to let them leave the building; eight kids died and more were injured when the tornado hit and the walls caved in on the kids and the parents who tried in vain to get them out.

Here's an excerpt from the editorial, "Planned to Death":

Yes, some parents have spoken out against the decision of the school to keep the kids corralled in a trap of death. But their complaints have been shot down by the "responsible" voices of the officials in charge. Meanwhile, news has slowly leaked out that other schools in Alabama have a different policy: they shut down the school and tell the kids to get the heck out.

This is an unusual approach. The whole culture of emergency in this country seems to be predicated on the notion that people do no know what is best for them. They need authorities to tell them what to do. And whatever they do, they must do it in concert. Masses of people must be shuffled this way and that, and no one should be permitted to have any choice in the matter.

I don't know if this latest event at Virginia Tech has all the hallmarks of the "sitting ducks" scenario that befell the high school students in Alabama, but I think that this aspect of the tragedy is one of the most important elements to be explored. At least for those concerned with human safety and the rights of the individuals whose lives are at risk in such a situation.