WASHINGTON—At the direction of President Bush, federal officials at the Departments of Education, Justice, and Health and Human Services are providing assistance to the Virginia Tech community and participating in a review of the broader questions raised by the tragedy.
Officials will begin traveling across the country this week to meet with state and local leaders, educators, mental health experts and law enforcement officials to find out what can be learned from this tragedy. Once this process has been completed, Secretary Leavitt will work with Secretary Spellings and Attorney General Gonzales to summarize the issues raised and report to the President within 30 days.
“The pain of this tragedy is felt throughout this nation and our hearts and prayers go out to the victims’ families, friends and the entire Virginia Tech community,” HHS Secretary Leavitt said. “While our review will not answer all the questions or solve all the problems, we hope to frame up a series of issues as part of a thoughtful, national dialogue and determine where the federal government can play a role in helping states and communities avoid such tragedies in the future.”
Education Secretary Margaret Spellings stated, “I’m looking forward to a candid and constructive dialogue with university officials, educators, parents, students and others aimed at exploring ways to enhance emergency preparedness plans and appropriate information sharing while protecting personal privacy. As opposed to K-12, higher education has unique challenges, stemming from diversity of mission, size, location and student body. They also have unique resources they can bring to bear.”
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said, “As Virginia Tech and the nation recover from this tragedy, we have an obligation to take a look at the important issues it has raised. Among other things, we encourage a public discussion on how to ensure that law enforcement, school administrators and others receive the information they need to protect students while at the same time respecting the privacy of medical and health information.”
Secretaries Leavitt and Spellings and Attorney General Gonzales will travel separately to convene meetings in states starting April 26. Over the next few weeks, one of the officials is expected to travel to states such as West Virginia, Minnesota, Colorado, Utah, Tennessee, Texas, Florida and California. In many of these states, similar tragedies have occurred and the lessons learned from those events will provide valuable input for this review. Administration officials will also meet with members of Virginia Governor Kaine’s commission which is conducting an in-depth investigation of this tragedy from the state’s perspective.