Bush Appoints Panel to Review Va. Tech Shootings

By Bill Brubaker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 20, 2007; 3:24 PM

President Bush has directed three cabinet secretaries to huddle with educators, mental health experts and government officials across the nation to recommend ways to avoid a repeat of Monday's shooting rampage at Virginia Tech.

The review -- to be headed by Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and Education Secretary Margaret Spellings -- comes as educational institutions debate how to deal with early warning signs that a student may be dangerous to himself and others.

Bush said top federal officials will "provide the Virginia Tech community with whatever assistance we can, and to participate in a review of the broader questions raised by this tragedy."

In the days since Cho Seung Hui shot and killed 32 fellow students and faculty members before killing himself, questions have been raised about how Virginia Tech dealt with Cho after he was released from a mental health facility in December 2005. Cho's bizarre writings attracted the attention of professors and other students on campus.

"We can never fully understand what would cause a student to take the lives of 32 innocent people," Bush said, according to a transcript that was released today of his weekly Saturday radio address. "What we do know is that this was a deeply troubled young man -- and there were many warning signs. Our society continues to wrestle with the question of how to handle individuals whose mental health problems can make them a danger to themselves and to others."

Bush said he has directed Education, Justice and Health and Human Services department officials to travel across the United States to meet with "educators, mental health experts, and state and local officials."

Leavitt will "summarize what they learn and report back to me with recommendations about how we can help to avoid such tragedies," Bush said.

Asked how long the review will take, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said today: "Not long. This is a new tasking by the president, and so a lot of the details are still being worked out. Secretary Leavitt said he plans to get started quickly."

Yesterday, Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) created an eight-member independent panel, including former U.S. homeland security secretary Tom Ridge, to review all aspects of the shootings, including Cho's medical history.

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