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Legal Issues in Campus Suicide Prevention

A Jury Found Iowa State U. Partially Responsible for a Student's Suicide. Here's What That Could Mean for Other Colleges, 2019 (opens new window)
Featured on the website for The Chronicle (subscription required for access), this article looks at the case of Dane Schussler, a junior at Iowa State University, who died by suicide after he sought treatment at the university's counseling center. The case raises questions about the degree of responsibility that higher education institutions have for their students' well-being, the level of liability such institutions may have when their services are reduced, and if common treatment practices need revision.

Strategies for Addressing Mental Health Support on Campus, 2019 (PDF/.928 Megabytes)
This article overviews relevant federal legislation and liability concerns, highlights trends in counseling center practices, and offers recommendations for campus mental health policies and practices.

Students, Parents and Suicide: What's the Role of the University?, 2018 (opens new window)
This article looks at the legal and moral obligations that a college or university has regarding students in crisis and when to involve the parents.

Duty to Protect-California Supreme Court Ruling, 2018 (opens new window)
This article looks at a California Supreme Court ruling regarding the duty of public colleges and universities, in the state of California, to protect students from potential violent acts. The article also looks at possible implications that the ruling may have nationwide.

Campus Mental Health: Know Your Rights, 2017 (PDF/.098 Megabytes)
A resource created by The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law that provides a discussion of the rights of students as they relate to mental health. The resource provides straightforward, easy-to-understand explanations of many issues that students may have questions about including topics such as privacy rights and ways to seek accommodations for mental health concerns.

Resource Document on College Mental Health and Confidentiality, 2016 (PDF/.796 Megabytes)
This document was prepared to give practitioners a guide to providing good clinical care within the framework of relevant law.

Making the Call: Parental Notification of Suicidal Students, 2015 (PDF/3.6 Megabytes)
A resource created by two attorneys and two clinicians addressing the question of when parents should be notified about suicidal students.

A Developmental Framework for a Code of Student Conduct: The NCHERM Group Model Code Project, 2013 (PDF/.483 Megabytes)
This article provides guidance and resources for colleges and universities, large or small, public or private to be better able to craft a comprehensive code of conduct for their students.

Balancing Safety and Support on Campus: A Guide for Campus Teams, 2012 (PDF/1.42 Megabytes)
A resource created by the Higher Education Mental Health Alliance (HEMHA) to provide guidance for the structure and function of “campus teams” (commonly called threat assessment teams). In the wake of violent acts at universities in Virginia and Illinois, many campuses have created campus teams to identify and assess the behaviors of distressed students. These teams are tasked with providing “appropriate, case-by-case responses” to maintain safety on university campuses. Pages 20 to 23 address legal challenges inherent in balancing the needs of the distressed student with concerns for the safety of the community.

Virginia College Mental Health Study, 2011 (PDF/1.0 Megabytes)
It includes addressing the roles and responsibilities of colleges in responding to possible student mental health crises, including notification and sharing of information, threat assessment, initiation and participation in commitment proceedings and follow-up.

Student Mental Health and the Law: A Resource for Institutions of Higher Education, 2008 (PDF/.448 Megabytes)
From the JED Foundation comes this comprehensive assessment of legal implications for universities in managing the needs of distressed students. This resource provides useful explanations of federal laws including FERPA (pages 7 to 8), HIPAA (page 10), and ADA (pages 12 to 19). This resource is very useful in addressing a wide variety of concerns related to distressed students including assessments of mental health, appropriate on-campus interventions, and follow-up after discharge from the hospital.

Supporting Students: A Model Policy for Colleges and Universities, 2007 (PDF/.072 Megabytes)
This resource created by The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law provides a useful model for universities to address the concerns of a distressed student and “…develop a nondiscriminatory approach to a student who is in crisis because of a mental health problem.” This resource focuses on providing support and care for the student to encourage help-seeking behaviors.

Best Practices for Supporting Suicidal Students within a Risk Management Framework (PDF/.044 Megabytes)
A resource that provides an explanation of how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act apply to suicidal students. It includes the basic steps a university should take in order to accommodate the needs of distressed students. The author emphasizes the importance of focusing on the needs of the distressed student and how the university may support that student rather than jumping immediately to separation or discipline for violation of conduct codes.