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Judge says Virginia Tech did not violate notification law in 2007 shootings

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Posted at 10:28 AM, Mar 30, 2012
and last updated 2012-03-30 13:27:57-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – A U.S. Department of Education judge ruled Thursday that Virginia Tech's response to the deadly shootings on campus in 2007 did comply with federal law.

As a result, a $55,000 fine issued previously against the university by the U.S. Department of Education will be vacated.

The fines were originally imposed under the federal Clery Act, which requires colleges and universities to issue timely warnings to their campuses when certain crimes are committed on campus.

The judge found that the act applied to the initial shootings of two students at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007, but also found that the campus-wide e-mails issued by Virginia Tech's emergency policy group were sent in a timely manner and met the act's warning requirements.

Administrative Judge Ernest Canellos found the university's actions on the morning of April 16, 2007, after the shootings in Ambler Johnston residence hall, met the Clery Act's requirements of the “timely warning” provision.

“This was not an unreasonable amount of time in which to issue a warning. …. if the later shootings at Norris Hall had not occurred, it is doubtful that the timing of the email would have been perceived as too late,” said Canellos.

Virginia Tech officials said they were pleased with the ruling, but that there is still a profound sadness about the horrendous event that took place almost five years ago. [READ MORE: Complete statement from Virginia Tech]

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said in a news release Friday that he was glad that the judge agreed with the school's notification met all of requirements of the Clery Act.

"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," said Cuccinelli.

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."

The mass shooting at Virginia Tech in April of 2007 left 25 wounded and 32 other students and faculty members dead.

In December 2011, two people were also killed in another incident on campus after a man opened fire on a campus police officer and then shot himself.

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