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Law Hushed Va. Tech Gunman’s Disorder

Posted Aug 27, 2007 11:44 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Federal privacy and disability laws prohibited high school officials from revealing that the Virginia Tech gunman suffered from a social anxiety disorder.

Fairfax County created a special education plan for Seung Hui Cho that allowed him to decline to participate in class discussions at his high school, the Washington Post reports. But laws kept that information a secret unless Cho or his parents chose to reveal it.

Cho suffered from selective mutism, a disorder that prevents sufferers from speaking in social settings and makes them feel threatened when in the spotlight. Cho refused to answer when Virginia Tech professors called on him, making professors angry and resulting in taunts from classmates.

Barmak Nassirian, of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, said many colleges don’t want to know about a student’s psychiatric disorders for fear they will be held liable if they reject admission.

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