Should colleges be allowed to expel depressed students?

Sunday, March 12, 2006
From Friday's Washington Post: GWU Suit Prompts Questions Of Liability.

A Virginia judge says that a college has a duty to prevent a suicide if the risk is readily foreseeable.

A common allegation is that the school violates federal law protecting Americans with disabilities by threatening suspension or expulsion.

Historically, college administrators have not been held responsible for student suicides. But these new cases raise questions that could result in substantial financial liability for colleges.


David Thomson said...

"readily foreseeable"

This criteria seems way too vague. It is even doubtful whether the credentialled psychiatric and psychological communities can even begin to offer a realistic guideline to these schools. University bureaucrats most assuredly will rather be safe than sorry. Covering their behinds is always their first consideration. Thus, a student suffering from somewhat minor psychological problems may be removed from the campus. Pragmatically, the college administrators will simply operate on the principle “when in doubt---kick them out!”

Rick Ballard said...

If you are eighteen, you have legal status as an adult. It isn't "theoretical" it's factual. I'm puzzled as to how the law might deal with this in terms of developing a special status for students and the relationship between the student and the vendor selling him a degree. Would the Army be subject to the same sort of potential liability regarding an eighteen year old volunteer?

Or is it only the precious darlings on campus who are - yet are not - adults?

vnjagvet said...
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vnjagvet said...

This young man acted thoroughly responsibly. He sought counseling, then medical treatment, then hospitalization.

Surely he did nothing to warrant disciplinary action. Maybe some sort of medical leave would have been appropriate, but how his conduct could possibly be violative of school policy evades me.

I also do not understand from the story where the University secured the information that resulted in charges.

If it was from the Hospital, there must be a violation of HIPPA. If it was from the counselor, it violates physician-patient privilege.

The WAPO story presents a dilemma, but is not helpful on possible solutions.

CF said...

OTOH we have schools like Harvard with an ever larger, ever more costly counseling office which (a) was sued when a counselor apparently engaged in sexual conduct with a student and drove him to suicide and(b) refuses to intercede unless the student seeks them out--reports from roommates and dorm advisors being insufficient to get them to do anything--hence a few years ago a murder-suicide along with the usual 3 or 4 suicides per year.

Perhaps the schools ought to get out of the counseling business, provide mandatory psychological counseling insurance and make it clear to everyone they are unsuited for this task.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

Are colleges in locus parentis or are they not? If so, then they must be given the power to control the lives of their students, exactly the power that was stripped away in the Sixties.

To me this seems but one more example of an ever growing trend within our society: more freedom and less responsibility for the individual. The basic tenet that freedom and responsibility are inherently linked is increasingly lost.

Of course it is the nature of all human beings to seek maximal freedom and minimal responsibility. But it is unfair to others to burden them with one's own messes. It is the responsibility of society as a whole to inculcate this basic principle into its children. There is no freedom without responsibility. There is no responsibility without power. Our society, for a long time, has been inculcating the opposite.

Thus is the road to serfdom, for ultimately a dictator will arise quite willing to shoulder all the responsibility we are ourselves too lazy to be bothered about.

JB said...

Understand why limiting speech of psychiatrists (vis-a-vis gun ownership stance, etc.) isn't as un-American as it sounds?

The trial lawyers are the elephant in the room. Threat of lawsuits creates a chilling effect on all sorts of rights.