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Six Years Later: Victim’s Families Compensated for Negligence During V-Tech Shootings


Sarah Whitten

Editor in chief

Nearly six years after the worst college shooting in history, a jury deemed Virginia Tech negligent in their reaction to the events of April 16th. After two students were murdered in a residence hall the university waited more than two hours to notify the campus of the shooting. The case was brought before the Montgomery County circuit court by the families of Erin Peterson and Julia Pryde.  The victims’ parents say the point was to show the lack of warning that many of the students were given during the horrific events.

The Norris Hall shootings, which began two hours after the initial shootings, resulted in the deaths of thirty faculty members and students. Evidence was shown from the prosecutors that there was a gap of as much as ten minutes between the warning (a note attached to a chained door) and the first shots. It was clear throughout the court case that there was a lack of communication between the administration and the student body before and during the shooting. Campus Safety officers at Virginia Tech claimed they did not want to cause mass panic and therefore a lockdown was not initiated. Ultimately, the jury voted in favor of the families of Erin Peterson and Julia Pryde and awarded each family $4 million.

Most Roanoke College students believe that the parents of the two victims were justified in their actions. “In the aftermath of a tragedy everybody is going to be looking for something, if this family is looking for answers then I hope they found them,”  says Henry McKinney’ 12.

Shana Melanaphy ‘13 echoes, “I found it noble that the parents continued to fight for their daughters. It sends out a powerful message: we won’t settle, we’ll fight for what’s right. The truth needs to be heard so that no family would have to suffer losing their child in an event that could have been stopped, or at the very worst lessened.”

Even Alumni had their opinion on the outcome of this case. Andrew Cullen, a recent graduate of Roanoke College, had this to say about the recent victory. “I must give credit to the plaintiffs that it appears their goal is not money, but one of a personal nature to discover truth, not make a quick buck.”

Like many other colleges and universities in America, Roanoke College responded immediately to the tragedy. An emergency notification service known as “Maroon Alerts” has come into effect in order to alert RC students via text messages on cell phones and by email. Even with phones, email, and other methods of communication, faculty, staff, and students can be difficult to contact while in class or outside on campus. However, Maroon Alerts offers and additional method of communication for the Administration to contact the college community.

Maroon Alerts are used by Roanoke College to notify the student body about emergencies or bad weather situations.  In addition, Campus Safety has developed an “All Hazards Community Checklist” to give the campus helpful tips for several emergency scenarios. According to the RC website, “The checklist includes an “Active Shooter Protocol” to help the campus community know what to do in a situation where there is immediate threat to safety, such as the one at Virginia Tech. The checklist also includes tips for dealing with medical emergencies, severe weather, and fire.”