Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
School's Liability for a Student's Suicide
Officials who hear of a student's suicide threat may be liable for the minor's later suicide.
Illinois
State:
Categories:
Key Point. School or church officials who receive a report of a minors suicide threat may or may not be liable for the minors later suicide, depending on how they respond to this information.

• An Illinois court ruled that a school was not legally responsible for the suicide of a student, despite the fact that it was aware of a suicide threat made by the student. The facts of this case are tragic, but instructive. A high school student told other students that he was going to kill himself. He also wrote a suicide note. Several students reported the victims intentions to a school counselor. The counselor questioned the victim, but took no action other than to call the victims mother and suggest that she take her son to a hospital for drug overdose treatment. The counselor did not inform the mother of the victims suicide threats. The mother picked her son up from school, and while driving him to a hospital he jumped from the car and later leapt off a highway overpass, killing himself. The mother later sued the school, claiming that it was responsible for her sons death by failing to exercise reasonable care for his safety. She insisted that the school should have called an ambulance or other medical personnel, informed her of his threat to commit suicide, and implemented a suicide prevention program. A state appeals court rejected the mothers lawsuit. The court concluded that teachers and school officials who serve in loco parentis (in the place of the parents) are immune from liability under Illinois law for their ordinary negligence. They may be legally responsible only for their willful and wanton misconduct. The court ruled that the acts of the school or its counselor did not satisfy this standard:

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