AN AMERICAN university broke the law by waiting two hours to tell the campus that a gunman was loose during the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.
In a report, the US Department of Education rejected Virginia Tech's argument that its response to the 2007 shooting rampage met standards in place at the time.
"Virginia Tech's failure to issue timely warnings about the serious and ongoing threat deprived its students and employees of vital, time-sensitive information and denied them the opportunity to take adequate steps to provide for their own safety," the report said.
The department found in January that the university violated the Clery Act, which requires notification of on-campus threats to students and employees.
The report found the school broke the law by failing to issue a timely warning to the Blacksburg campus after student Seung-Hui Cho shot dead two students in a dormitory early on April 16, 2007.
The university sent out an e-mail to the campus more than two hours later, about the time Cho was chaining shut the doors to a classroom building where he killed 30 more students and staff, then himself.
The report also determined that the school failed to follow its own procedures for providing such notification.
Virginia Tech could be fined 17,400 for each violation, for a total of 34,800. The school could also lose some or all its 62m in government student financial aid, though such an outcome is considered unlikely.
Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hincker said the school would probably appeal if it was sanctioned.
A state commission that investigated the shootings also found that the university erred by failing to notify the campus sooner.
The state reached an 6.9m settlement with many of the victims' families. Two families have sued and are seeking 6.3m in damages from university officials. One victim's mother said she was glad the university was finally facing punishment for its actions, but she took more satisfaction from the inclusion in the report of actions that Virginia Tech officials took to protect themselves that morning.
"They couldn't fine enough money for what happened that day and how it altered our lives," said Suzanne Grimes, whose son Kevin Sterne was injured in the shootings."It's more about the truth of what happened.
"That's what I sought for all these years."
Ms Grimes and other victims' families fought for the state report to include documentation that some Virginia Tech staffers informed family members and others about the shootings long before the notice went out to the entire campus.