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Can a School Be Liable for a Student's Suicide?

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By George Khoury, Esq. on August 10, 2017 12:00 PM

Suicide among youths is extraordinarily disturbing to read about. When a child who is even younger than a teenager commits suicide, the tragedy is all the more confounding.

Sadly, child suicide is often the result of external factors, such as embarrassment, bullying, or school pressures. Although people often know that schools can be held liable for the injuries students sustain on school grounds, many wonder whether a school can be held liable for self-harm that occurs after school and not on school grounds.

Can a School Be Held Liable for a Student's Suicide?

While it may sound like a stretch to some, schools can be held liable when a child commits suicide if the school was somehow negligent, and if that negligence led to the suicide.

A case filed in August 2017 provides a tragic example of a parent suing a school for negligence leading to her son's suicide. In January 2017, an 8-year-old boy hung himself after two consecutive days of severe bullying at school. The school was aware of the bullying happening in the boys bathroom as it had been going on for some time. Additionally, the school allegedly even had video cameras that captured the bullying. But, the school failed to even notify the child's mother, let alone do anything to stop it.

On the first day of bullying, the child was knocked unconscious and left to lie on the bathroom floor for seven minutes. The mother was never notified. After the second day of school where the child was bullied, again in the boys bathroom, he went to his room after getting home, and before his mother could even go check on him, he had used a necktie to hang himself.

Filing Suit for Student Suicide

Despite how crass it may feel, parents that suffer the tragedy of a child committing suicide need to act quickly to assert their legal rights. Depending on the jurisdiction, there may be strict timelines for when you must file a claim. For instance, in many states, including California, any claim against a government entity, which includes public schools and officials, must be filed within a short period of time and follow specific legal procedures to be valid in court.

Seeking out an experienced personal injury attorney early on may be emotionally challenging, but doing so as soon as you are able will ensure your legal rights are preserved.

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