To: U.Va. Parents
From: Patricia M. Lampkin, U.Va. Student Affairs
Subject: Follow-up on Safety Information to Students
As referenced in my last communication to you, below you will find a copy of the e-mail that went to all students last Friday related to their safety. Your continued conversations with your daughters and sons about their experiences and their personal safety and well-being are central to their emotional healing in situations like these.
I also want to address two topics that have arisen from e-mails that I have received in response to my communications on the Virginia Tech tragedy. Many of you have shared valuable suggestions for specific safety measures and communication systems to use in an emergency response; thank you for those. Please know that in addition to the systems we use currently, and to those that soon will be operational, we will continue to explore a broad range of options (including low- and no-tech tools) for our multilayered communications approach.
Second, many of you have raised the possibility of removing from the University students struggling with significant mental disorders. Students who are determined to pose a significant risk to our community are suspended and barred from Grounds. The University has long had a policy of interim suspension. Under that policy, the University may suspend a student reasonably believed to pose a threat to himself or herself, to the health or safety of other members of the University, to University property, or to the educational process, pending a hearing on an underlying offense charged under the University's Standards of Conduct.
The University follows a specific set of procedures for adjudicating cases against students with psychiatric or psychological conditions or mental disease. These cases are heard by panels staffed by persons with appropriate expertise, such as psychologists and psychiatrists. Under these same procedures, the Dean of Students may request that my office require a student whose conduct or behavior raises concerns of significant risk to undergo a mental health assessment as one of the conditions for the student's return or continued enrollment at the University. In instances where there is an imminent threat of harm, Virginia law provides a process for the temporary custody of an individual for psychiatric evaluation. While these cases are always difficult, we have found these policies and procedures effective in the very rare instances in which we have had to invoke them.
Many of you also have raised questions regarding our ability to notify you in the event we learn that your son or daughter develops serious mental health concerns while here. As you may know, various federal and state laws require the University to protect the privacy rights of students in their health care records. Some of you have asked whether the University plans to seek legislative change in this area. Others have suggested that we require students to sign mandatory consent forms for parental notification as part of our enrollment process. We are now re-examining our notification systems and will continue to explore any options viable under the law. The law requires that a student's consent be informed and voluntary and not coerced. Moreover, I am committed to ensuring that our policies continue to support our students in seeking the help they need. None of us would want broader notification to lead to a student's decision not to access our mental health professionals for fear of possible consequences.
As we near the end of the academic year, our goal is to support our students in moving forward with their studies and maintaining as much normalcy in their routines as possible. Rest assured I am reading and taking to heart the advice included in your messages. I am referring them to other University departments as appropriate.
I am grateful for your feedback and observations. Please refer to <http://www.virginia.edu/parents> for ongoing information and updates. As always, if you have concerns about specific individual students whom you believe to be in distress, please continue to share that information with the Office of the Dean of Students (434-243-3333 or firstname.lastname@example.org) so that staff members can follow up with students as needed.
Thank you for your concern, support, and continued partnership with our community
Patricia M. Lampkin
Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer
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Last Modified: Thursday, 23-Aug-2007 10:12:18 EDT
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