Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Two GA Mistakes And How They Impacted 4-16-07 (PART 1)

Recently the Virginia General Assembly made two major blunders, both purely due to a desire to remain "politically correct".

During the past legislative session Del. Albert C. Eisenberg,(D) - House District 47 introduced legislation that would prevent State owned colleges and universities from expelling a student solely for demonstrating suicidal tendencies. That sounds very cuddly and warm hearted. It would take a hard hearted bastard to vote against such a Bill. Apparently, there are no hard hearted bastards in the General Assembly, as it passed both houses unanimously.

Some people in a position to know however, looked beyond the paper the Bill was printed on and saw a potential problem. The director of student health and counseling services at Washington & Lee University, Dr. Jane T. Horton, said that in some cases, allowing a suicidal student to remain at school "is putting their own health at risk or placing an undue burden on the university for taking care of them, and an undue burden to other students who are concerned." She and Dawn A. Watkins, dean of students, saw such a potential problem with the legislation that they sent a letter to Governor Kaine urging him to veto it.

Although HB3069 does not directly affect W&L because the University's Virginia campus is private, Del. Eisenberg has used the example of an earlier lawsuit against another private institution, George Washington University, (we'll get to the details of that in a moment) in justifying the law's necessity, saying, "I was appalled by certain colleges that thought it was reasonable to expel these kids at the worst possible time".

Del. Eisenberg insisted that colleges and universities would have the authority to deal with students who are a danger to themselves and to others. He explained, "The bill does not strip them of that authority _ just the opposite, If a student has barricaded himself in a bedroom and somehow has gotten ahold of a gun, authorities have to be allowed to come in and deal with the problem".

Is he saying he would prefer that disturbed students remain enrolled until they do become a violent problem? It sounds like that to me.

I also wonder if the bill did not influence the Administration and Faculty at Tech. The Evil, (I will not pollute this page further with his name), obviously fell into the category of student this bill was designed to protect. He was adjudged mentally ill, a "hazard to himself and others", yet he remained on campus. 63 fellow students decided, out of fear, to not continue attending a literature class with him, yet he remained on campus. His professor in that class took her concerns to the Campus Police and the Administration, yet he remained on campus. The department head began private tutoring sessions with him, setting up a safety code word which would prompt her assistant to call for help in case he became violent, yet he remained on campus.

The question is; Did he remain on campus because of this bill? It may be just a bit more complicated than that. Obviously, The Evil had been identified as suicidal and a hazard to others long before Del. Eisenberg introduced HB3069. We must instead look at the genesis of Del. Eisenberg's feel-good bill.

In the fall of 2004, George Washington University sophomore Jordan Nott alleged he was suspended from school and barred from campus because he told a University counselor that he had general thoughts of suicide. Citing the Americans with Disabilities Act, Nott brought suit against the school and several administrators alleging that GW's policies discriminate against those with mental illness. The suit settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

We may never know for certain what compelled the Virginia Tech Administration to keep this disturbed package of evil on campus, but it does not take a strong imagination to consider the following; Virginia Tech Administrators were aware of the Jordan Nott lawsuit. Virginia Tech Administrators were aware of Del. Eisenberg's HB3069 and it's overwhelming support in the General Assembly.

Whether it was the successful Nott lawsuit, or the impending passage of HB3069, or a combination of the two that kept the Evil on campus, one thing is certain. Del. Eisenberg's feel-good bill virtually assures that at some point in the future another disturbed student will remain on some Virginia campus until he, in Del. Eisenberg's own words, "...has barricaded himself in a bedroom and somehow has gotten ahold of a gun..."

The second General Assembly mistake.

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