On May 7, 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that schools can be held liable for students’ suicides in certain situations. This case arose when a 25-year-old Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) student jumped off an on-campus building after receiving an offending email from a professor. While MIT was ultimately found innocent in the same Supreme Court ruling, it is hoped that this case will save more students’ lives in the future.
Currently, schools can be found liable for a student’s suicide if they fail to act once discovering the student has attempted suicide while enrolled or has previously threatened suicide. Schools are expected to take reasonable measures to help these students by discussing suicide prevention protocol, getting the help of a medical professional, or contacting the police or emergency personal.
The Supreme Court ruled that the case at MIT did not show negligence on the university’s part, since the student never communicated his suicidal intent. But moving forward, the Supreme Court believes this new ruling will allow a more open communication around suicide and self-harm.
At the end of the day, you want to ensure that you or your loved ones are safe in their academic environments. In recent years, schools have begun providing more resources regarding suicide prevention and mental health. Additionally, college students have started opening up about anxiety and depression, publicly sharing real struggles and issues in the hope that their stories help others. But what happens when the school environment itself becomes unsafe? And who is liable if there is an injury or murder on-campus?
Universities have a responsibility to protect every student on-campus. If a student is murdered on-campus, a few factors will qualify it for a wrongful death case. Like suicide cases, colleges will also be liable for murder if ignoring warning signs of at-risk student safety. Colleges should always keep their eyes and ears open and increase security protocols if they assume heightened threat levels. Campus awareness should be raised, security patrols should be increased and all potentially dangerous on-campus areas should be consistently monitored. Finally, universities have a responsibility to educate their student on protection and awareness. They should also provide screening processes for anyone entering the campus, easily accessed security phones, self-locking dorm room doors, and easy crime reporting procedures.
If a student dies on campus, whether through suicide or murder, the university may be held directly responsibly. If you believe the college overlooked any key protection protocols leading to the inciting incident, reach out to your nearest personal injury lawyer, like a Wrongful Death Lawyer in Salt Lake City, UT, to report wrongful death.
Thank you to the experts at Rasmussen & Miner for their insight into wrongful death and the law.