School Officials May Be Liable For Suicide of Student Who Was Bullied


There has been a lot of attention recently about a number of recent suicides among middle school, high school, and even college-age students who killed themselves after suffering from pervasive bullying. Most people have focused on trying to get the message out to youth that bullying does end and life will get better (for example, this video posted by Ellen DeGeneres on her site and this video entitled “It Gets Better” posted by a gay couple who share their “happily ever after” story to inspire gay youth who are in a high risk group for suicide due to bullying ). One grieving mother has taken another approach, by bringing a wrongful death lawsuit against school officials at Grafton High School alleging negligence for their failure to protect her teenage son from bullying that lead to his suicide.

In the suit, the mother alleges that the school principal, the two assistant principal, the school counselor, and the school resource officer failed their duty to protect her son while he was in their custody or under their supervision at Grafton High. The school resource officer was dismissed on demurrer, with the court holding that a school resource officer serves a peacekeeping function at the school, not one intended to supervise the students. The attorney for the defendants argued that school administrators did not have a duty to prevent a suicide that occurred at home, after the child left their custody. There was also a question whether the school administrators could have foreseen the student’s suicide based on the information available to them. The court held that the plaintiff pled enough for the case to move forward past the initial pleadings, to determine what the administrators knew about the bullying suffered by the student while he was in their care and what they could have done or should have done to protect him.

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