Colleges can look for warning signs, but cannot predict violence

DALLAS – College students struggle with becoming adults, handling relationships and independence.

They might get depressed, even write an essay laced with violence or profanity.

So when do routine troubles become severe enough that college officials need to do something?

That’s often hard to tell, some college counselors and administrators say, reflecting on the mentally ill Virginia Tech student who fatally shot 32 people, then himself.

“What happened at Virginia Tech is an extreme example that makes for great conversation. But the truth is, if we treated every undergraduate who was depressed as about to exhibit a manic episode, we’d have to confront virtually every student in campuses across the country,” said Dean Bresciani, vice president for student affairs at Texas A’M University.

Colleges say they can and do look for warning signs, but they simply can’t predict whether a student will erupt into violence.

They’re also bound by laws that restrict access to mental health records and can make it difficult to get a disturbed person their necessary