Virginia Tech wins major appeal

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A major reversal for Virginia Tech. A judge has ruled the university did not break federal law and warned students in a timely manner during the 2007 shooting massacre.

One year ago, the US Department of Education decided Virginia Tech waited too long to warn students there was a gunman on campus - and fined the school $55,000. This latest ruling reverses that decision - much to the surprise of at least one victim's family.

It's been nearly five years since a gunman opened fire at Virginia Tech, killing 32 people and injuring dozens more. Many people believe those numbers could have been lower if the university warned students sooner about a gunman on campus.

Andy Goddard's son Colin was shot four times inside a classroom while calling 911.

"If my son had known there had been a shooting on campus, he would have turned over and gone back to sleep," Goddard said. "He would have never have gone onto the campus."

Last March a jury, a panel convened by the governor and a Department of Education judge all sided with Goddard, saying the university violated federal reporting laws.

Now another DOE judge has reversed that decision, saying the university did warn students in a timely manner after all.

"That's what universities are there for - to give people knowledge they can use in the rest of their lives," Goddard said. "Well, they had knowledge that could have helped people save their lives and they didn't use it and that's unconscionable."

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli represented Virginia Tech. His office issued this statement after the ruling: "We have maintained from the beginning that Virginia Tech's notification to the campus community met all of requirements of the Clery Act, and we are glad the judge agreed. For us, this appeal was not about the fines as much as it was about the arbitrary way the U.S. Department of Education tried to apply the law against a school that responded reasonably while an unforeseen and unprecedented crime was occurring on campus."

Virginia Tech will now no longer have to pay the $55,000 fine imposed by the Department of Education.

Two families of shooting victims were awarded $4 million a piece in a recent lawsuit. State law caps those awards at a $100,000. Both families are now appealing.

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