Since the 2007 tragedy at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, where a student who had been declared mentally ill killed 32 people before turning the gun on himself, colleges have been focused on improving their counseling programs for students with mental health issues. Universities are hiring more trained counselors, implementing outreach programs, and encouraging student involvement in an effort to support students with problems like depression, eating disorders and drug/alcohol abuse.
A more controversial strategy that some school officials have begun is pre-emptive dismissals of students they believe could pose a threat based on behavior or a perceived mental illness. Policies like these are discriminatory in nature because they profile students based on their mental health status. Mental health officials acknowledge that they do not have the capability to predict the future behavior of patients. The expulsion of a student on the grounds that they are a threat to themselves or others because they have been diagnosed with or are seeking treatment for a mental illness infringes on civil rights.
Universities are considered to be in a unique relationship with the students who attend. They therefore are liable for the well being of their students. In the event that school officials are aware of an at-risk student and fail to provide them help, they can be held liable if the student injures themselves. School administrators should who have noticed or been alerted of warning signs of suicidal behavior should ensure that the student seeks medical treatment for their mental illness as well as follow up with the student. Not doing so is viewed as negligence under the law.
If you or a loved one has been hurt by a preventable incident at a university, contact the Kenosha personal injury attorneys of Habush Habush & Rottier S.C. ® at 1-866-499-4700 to discuss your case and to determine your legal options.