Don’t Cover Up Campus Criminals

It has been more than two years since Virginia Tech student Seung-hui Cho slaughtered 32 people on the university’s campus. Since then, a focus of investigators has been whether the institution took Cho’s mental illness seriously.

Answers could not be obtained from the gunman himself; Cho committed suicide as police closed in on him on April 16, 2007. Another obstacle in the investigation was that the campus mental health clinic somehow “lost” Cho’s counseling records.

This week Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine announced that the records have been found. They were located at the home of a former employee of the clinic, who left the job months before the shooting.

Obviously, as Kaine pointed out, the authorities need to determine why the records were taken and, in view of what happened with Cho, were not brought forward earlier.

Information in the records may provide clues as to whether Virginia Tech mental health counselors should have done more to help Cho – and protect the public.

But the ongoing investigation should be watched closely by officials at all institutions of higher learning, which sometimes place public relations ahead of safeguarding those on campus from criminals. Covering up and excusing those with psychological problems is no service to them – and can place students and faculty members in great danger.