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Executive Summary - Introduction

On April 16, 2007, the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., was the scene of a horrifying massacre. A single shooter, Seung-Hui Cho, killed 32 people and wounded many more before committing suicide.

Cho, a senior student at Virginia Tech, had been diagnosed with and treated for a severe anxiety disorder beginning in middle school and continued receiving therapy and special education support until his junior year of high school. During his college career, Cho had been accused of stalking two female students, was declared mentally ill by a Virginia special justice and had been asked to seek counseling by at least one professor. Unfortunately, these individual warning signs were not tracked and dealt with in a way that provided Cho with the help he needed and, in turn, possibly prevented the shootings. In addition, concerns were raised about the institution’s notification process and response to the shooting.

In an effort to evaluate and improve the ability of Oklahoma higher education and career technology center campuses to better handle a situation such as the Virginia Tech incident, Gov. Brad Henry issued Executive Order 2007-17 on April 25 (subsequently amended on April 27) establishing the Campus Life and Safety and Security Task Force, otherwise known as the CLASS Task Force. Henry appointed Dr. Glen D. Johnson, chancellor of the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education, as chair of the task force and Dr. Phil Berkenbile, director of the Department of Career and Technology Education, as vice-chair. Thirteen additional members from Oklahoma higher education, career technology education, public safety and health services were appointed as stated in the order.

The Executive Order states that the purpose of the task force is threefold:

  1. To review and evaluate campus safety and security plans already in place.
  2. To determine what modifications, if any, are necessary to prevent crises and enhance crisis response on campuses.
  3. To research methods for recognizing students in need and delivering to them appropriate services, such as counseling, substance abuse treatment and mental health management.

The order also enables the task force to make preliminary recommendations to campus personnel of specific measures to better protect campuses and improve emergency response.

Discussions revealed five major areas of focus – Laws and Policies, Counseling, Response, Notification and Funding – and subcommittees were formed to explore each area. Each subcommittee conducted specific research and has submitted a report that assesses the current condition of its respective area of concern and makes recommendations for improvement. Those subcommittee reports are included in this document.

As part of the research done by the task force, a two-part self-assessment survey was sent to each campus to gather information about crisis preparedness and availability of counseling services. A summary of the survey findings is included in this report.