Virginia Tech suicide victim’s parents ask, “Why didn’t the school tell us?”

The parents of a Virginia Tech suicide victim want to know why school officials didn’t tell them about emails the school received detailing their son’s suicidal behaviors. In our lawsuit filed in Fairfax County Circuit Court, the family of Daniel Kim is charging Virginia Tech and its administrators with gross negligence for failing to follow the university’s published protocols for dealing with suicide warnings.

The Reston family is also asking the university to assist in the passage of legislation, to be called The Daniel Kim Act, which will require all public universities in the state to notify parents when a threat to the safety of their children is present.

“Daniel Kim’s death was preventable. If Virginia Tech had followed its own published protocols for dealing with a suicide emergency, Daniel would still be alive today,” said Kim’s attorney Gary Brooks Mims. “Further, if the university had notified Mr. Kim of the emails declaring an emergency, he would have been by his son’s side within hours and sought appropriate and urgent medical care.”

“This is not an isolated case — suicide is one of the leading causes of death among college students and every parent in Virginia should stand behind the Kim’s call for legislation requiring parent notification in a case like this,” Mims said.

On November 5, 2007, Virginia Tech received an email alerting officials that Kim had previously attempted suicide and that he now had a gun and would “go through with it.” The email came from a friend of Kim’s, Shaun Pribush, who wrote, “This is a serious email. This is not a joke… Daniel has been acting very suicidal recently, purchasing a $200 pistol and claiming he’ll go through with it.” The email went on to report how Daniel said he’d swallowed pills but the “third time will be the charm.”

According to the lawsuit, Daniel Kim was never contacted by anyone from the University; he was never visited by the school’s psychologist on duty or any psychologist. No effort was made to speak with Daniel’s roommates or professors. No effort was made to share the email information with Kim’s parents, and no effort was made to contact Kim’s parents.

On December 9, 2007, Daniel Kim was found in a parking lot, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Virginia Tech’s published “Guidelines for Appropriate Action” — known as the “Care Team Manual” established a “Student Crisis and Emergency Response Protocol.” Under this protocol, “if a student has made an actual suicide attempt and/or any gesture or reference to suicide he or she must be seen by the psychologist on call.”

According to Suicide.org, suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students.