One good thing that might come of the Virginia Tech tragedy is the momentum to amend the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to let the family in on some crucial information that schools are now obliged to keep private. If a college student like shooter Seung Cho is deemed by the college psychologists to be seriously mentally ill, even a "danger to himself and others," the university is forbidden by federal law to tell his parents. This should change.
Maybe nothing could have been done to keep Seung Cho from hurting someone. His parents, who appear to be quiet immigrants with a limited command of English, have said nothing publicly, so it is hard to even guess what they might have been able to do. Still, parents are more likely to be able to reach a disturbed kid than a university that is hamstrung by bureaucratic regulations. Teachers and students did bring Cho to the attention of university mental health authorities, and they did what they could. But the university could not compel Cho to seek help. And they were forbidden from contacting his parents, the people most likely to get their son into care and out of the way of harming others.
Yeah, sure, there will be some cases in which the parents are the cause of the kid's mental problems. Notifying them might make it worse. So give the college mental health folks the discretion to decide when the family should be notified. But Congress should not prejudge that parents should never be notified that their kids need help. Privacy should not prevent help when it is most needed.