Virginia Tech Lessons for Parents

A list of the victims of the shootings at Virginia Tech:

Ross Abdallah Alameddine, Christopher James Bishop, Brian Roy Bluhm, Ryan Christopher Clark, Austin Michelle Cloyd,  Jocelyne Couture-Nowak, Daniel Alejandro Perez Cueva, Kevin Granata, Matthew Gregory Gwaltney,  Caitlin Millar Hammaren, Jeremy Michael Herbstritt, Rachael Hill, Emily Jane Hilscher, Jarrett Lee Lane, Matthew Joseph La Porte, Henry J. Lee, also known as Henh Ly,  Liviu Librescu, G.V. Loganathan, Partahi Mamora Halomoan Lumbantoruan, Lauren Ashley McCain, Daniel Patrick O’Neil, Juan Ramon Ortiz, Minal Hiralal Panchal, Erin Peterson, Michael Steven Pohle Jr, Julia Kathleen Pryde, Mary Karen Read, Reema Joseph Samaha, Waleed Mohammed Shaalan, Leslie Sherman, Maxine Turner, Nicole White

College is the best time in you life — or it’s supposed to be.  I went to the University of Georgia and graduated in 1979.  It was idyllic.  It was a quasi-adult state where you were with people your own age who wanted to be there.  A place where you could be free, to a point, to have successes and failures with a safety net: the faculty, the administration and your parents.

There were three kinds of people at the UGA when I was there according to the campus newspaper, The Red and Black, “Greeks, Freaks and Dormies.”  Greeks belonged to sororities and fraternities and became the yuppies of the 80s.  Freaks were the holdovers from the 60s — the hippie wannabes.  I was a Dormie — One of those people who lived in the dorms because I liked it and I knew if my behavior was out of bounds that my parents would be notified. 

On my way to Washington this week, I sat next to a biology professor from Florida.  We talked about her involvement with parents.  She said she has no contact with parents and in fact is barred from contacting parents regarding a student.  This is not what I am paying for as the parent of three college students.

I wanted the same experiences for my children in college and largely, they have had them. One of my children is “off the payroll” and in grad school, my middle child is taking the long road out of college and my youngest in college is going to graduate on time.  So I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with only one more child to enter college.

Then came Cho Seung-hui of Virginia Tech. We may never really know what sent him over the edge leading to the murder of 32 people on a Monday in April.  Lots of kids feel lonely and picked on.  Cho’s sister said he called home each Sunday night and they often talked about his difficulty fitting in, but she never thought that it would lead to the murder of 32 people and his own death. We know that good parents can raise lousy kids and bad parents can raise good kids — sometimes it is the luck of the draw.  We know Cho’s sister went to Princeton University.  This was one of the things that Cho ranted against in his video delivered to NBC on Thursday.  He looked at his sister’s acceptance to Harvard but having to settle for Princeton as a cause for anger against “rich kids.”  For most of us in the real world, attending either college would be a plum assignment.  Further, at most colleges the majority of students get some kind of financial aid — it’s not just rich kids from rich families. 

In the almost 35 years since the Supreme Court “found” the right to privacy in the case of Roe v. Wade, this nation has gone awry.  When you pull the first thread out of the fabric for what you think is a good reason, it leads to pulling the next and the next and soon there is a hole in need of patching. The areas where you have found the greatest abuse of privacy rights are in health care (especially mental health) and in the relationship between parents, administration and students who attend college. 

There will be much discussion about mental health notification parameters and there needs to be.  To accept that someone who has been deemed to be a danger to himself and others should have the right to make decisions about who should know and how much they should know about their mental health problems is preposterous.  The “system” was barred from reaching out to the people who could help him the most, his family.  The left will say there may be bad parents out there who wouldn’t understand their adult child’s problems.  I am tired of the assumption that most parents are bad and don’t want the best for their children — at any age.

Further, college aged kids over 18, currently control all the information that will be shared with their parents whether the parents are footing the bill or not.  From grades to violent writings, parents are excluded.  In our home, as long as we control the transportation and the money, our children will share information.

It is time for the Right to Privacy and its ramifications to be reexamined by the courts, but most importantly, average people in America need to tell their legislators that they care about these issues and they will not vote for anyone who does not support the rights of parents.  From opposing parental notification of an under age child getting an abortion, when that same child has to have a parental permission to get her ears pierced to keeping information about serious trouble your late teen/early twenties child is having coping in the world from parents, privacy has gone awry.  It is time to apply common sense and it is time for parents to demand their rights back, beginning today.