Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

Tragedy at Virginia Tech: Trauma and Its Aftermath

Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

Tragedy at Virginia Tech: Trauma and Its Aftermath

Article excerpt

Summarized by Cynthia Dickinson, NGSP, Coordinator, Crisis and Attendance Services, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA

On April 16, 2007, Seung-Hui Cho> a Virginia Tech senior, shot and killed 32 Virginia Tech students and faculty members, wounding 17 others. He then killed himself. The Virginia Tech event became the most deadly American university incident in history. Cho> a mentally ill young adult, planned everything: purchasing weapons, the two shooting events (dormitory and academic building), and mailing written and video messages to a major television network. The following summarizes a paper by Flynn and Heitzmann (2008) that focused on what was learned about the perpetrator and the trauma response of the university community. It also focuses on the challenges to common systems of care within college and university settings (challenges which can be generalized to K-12 school settings).

Flynn and Heitzmann (2008) reported that Gho, a Korean immigrant, experienced extreme social anxiety, depression, and selective mutism beginning in childhood. He was remarkably isolated from his peers and lacked close relationships except with his family members. He received special education services while in high school and various types of medical treatments. When admitted to Virginia Tech, his significant mental health history and related social isolation was not acknowledged. Gho continued to have strained peer and adult relationships with his roommates, female students, and faculty. He exhibited suicidal ideation, was found to be an imminent danger to himself, and was briefly hospitalized in December 2005. While he continued to display pronounced social isolation and more disturbing behaviors afterwards, he did not pursue care. Cho's thoughts and actions on April 16, 2007 reflected paranoid, delusional, and suicidal thinking. Remarkably, he maintained enough control to follow a complex plan, including mailing the written and video taped materials between shooting incidents.

Flynn and Heitzmann (2008) reported that, unlike other perpetrators of school violence, Gho had not shared his plans with anyone in the Virginia Tech community. However, Cho's history indicated that he had shared a desire to "repeat Columbine" in 1999.

Not surprisingly, Flynn and Heitzmann (2008) reported that the Virginia Tech community, including students, faculty, and staff, was significantly affected. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.