Royally Kranked

Friday, March 10, 2006

This story is so wrong on such a fundamental level that lots of negative attention is required ASAP

bypass registration with this Bug Me Not link

GWU Suit Prompts Questions Of Liability

And the subheadline doesn't even begin to adequately hint at the outrage to follow

School Barred Depressed Student

The upshot is that this student had a tough time dealing with the suicide of a close friend, which took place as Jordan Nott was trying to open the door to his friend's room when his friend jumped from his 5th story room

One evening in April, near the end of the semester, a freshman jumped from the fifth floor of a dorm.

He was one of Nott's closest friends; they had planned to room together sophomore year.

When he jumped, the complaint says, Nott and two others were trying to open his locked door to help.

Further context, the kid was a Straight-A student in his freshman year, and considered D.C.'s George Washington University an almost perfect place to study foreign relations

But in the suicide of Nott's friend, the fact that he & Nott were going to be sophomore year roommates, combined with the suicide of another GWU student the next semester started taking a psychological toll on Nott, to the point he started having suicidal thoughts and sought treatment at GWU's counseling center, where he started taking medications to deal with the problem

Nott told the counselors that he would not act on the suicidal thoughts

Now, add this factor to the mix

Late one night, the suicidal thoughts got intense enough for Nott to check himself into George Washington University Hospital

Now is when the outrage begins, so I'd advise having something to bite down on when coming to a particularly "head exploding from sheer fury" moment like those which follow

Within a day and a half of arriving there, he got a letter from a GWU administrator saying his "endangering behavior" violated the code of student conduct. He faced possible suspension and expulsion from school, the letter said, unless he withdrew and deferred the charges while he got treatment.

In the meantime, he was barred from campus.

So because this kid did the right thing by checking into a facility, because Nott didn't harm, or attempt harm to others, via going on a killing spree, somehow he's enough of an amorphous threat to go completely ballistic on at the first possible chance

This reaction, so brutal & out of the blue, just makes absolutely NO sense whatsoever, there's nothing logical about it in the least, especially for a kid who was dealing with his problems in the best, most logical and quickest way available

There's an obvious question here, but we'll get to it in just a bit

"It was like a stab in the back," he said. He felt they were telling him, "We're going to wipe our hands clean of you."

So, Nott sued GWU for violating the Americans With Disabilities Act

The school violated federal law protecting Americans with disabilities, the complaint argues. The law covers mental as well as physical impairments.

So, here's that obvious question

How did GWU learn about Nott's checking into the facility to start with?

In essence, it says the school betrayed him by sharing confidential treatment information and suspending him just when he most needed help.

GWU is damn lucky Nott wasn't as unwound as it claimed, otherwise such bullying could have had disastrous consequences if Nott would have lashed out at others physically

And now GWU is going into full CYA mode, something that is probably going to fail miserably in this case-God I hope so

In court documents filed this week, the university's attorneys defended the actions taken, denied that Nott was disabled and suggested that his conduct might bar his recovery. And they asked that the charges be dismissed for the individuals named -- mostly administrators and counselors. The university policies might seem impersonal, spokeswoman Tracy Schario said, but they are designed to keep both individuals and the community safe.

What follows are other pieces of the general puzzle to consider in this specific case, namely that University's are worried about legal liability when students or staff/personnel are physically harmed or physically attack others

Especially worrisome from the Universities POV, is what legal liability attaches if the attacker had warning signs legally, or psychologically of acting out on suicidal/homicidal thoughts & behaviors

Suicidal students have always forced tough calls. But with shifting legal ground, growing threats of lawsuits and increasing numbers of troubled teenagers entering colleges, many administrators are even more worried about how to handle them.

No doubt, colleges & universities have tough calls to make here, especially considering that various court rulings directly clash opposite each other regarding the proper course of action over suicidal students

And changes started decades ago are having a real-world impact now

Historically, administrators have not been held responsible for student suicides, said Karen-Ann Broe of United Educators, but recent -- and not yet settled -- cases have thrown that in flux.....Until the 1960s and '70s, colleges were expected to take care of students almost as parents would. Then students demanded to be treated as adults. Now Broe sees another shift, with more talk of sharing responsibility.

Also important here is the attitude of universities & colleges, taking a big chance legal-liability wise by letting a suicidal student stay in a dorm or social setting with other students

Unfortunately for the school, Nott's reaction completely undercuts GWU's overblown reaction-he DIDN'T go on a violent rampage or killing spree of any kind against any GWU students or GWU staff

He got counseling, medications and went for further help when the suicidal thoughts got strong

It's worth stating again,


Now, Nott says that if he had known that the sessions with the counselors weren't completely confidential, but could be accessed by a Dean, he would never have sought counselling to start with

To recap

Nott's done the right thing by seeking counseling instead of giving in to the despair & mental/emotional burdens he was carrying

And GWU, instead of doing the logical thing by not taking any punitive action in this case, rewarded Nott's smart thinking with this

In the hospital, one of the letters he received suggested that he could withdraw to defer the charges. He decided not to argue his case at a school judicial hearing to be held two days after he left the hospital, he said, worried that an effort to fight the charges would fail and leave him with a permanent black mark, an expulsion or suspension, on his transcript.

He withdrew, went home to Upstate New York, he said, missing his friends and worried that he had ruined his education. Weeks later, he waited for his father and friends to lug things down from his dorm because, he said, he had been told he could be arrested for trespassing.

If he had known, he said, he never would have gone to the hospital.

What kind of signal does this send out to the vast majority of other troubled college & university students who deal with suicidal thoughts by getting help instead of physically lashing out at others?

Is this completely idiotic Institutional course of action going to be the norm from now on, and are laws going to be made which make further such Institutional nonsense easier to accomplish on a far-broader social scale?

And how much of this is an Institutional concern for the well being of students & staff vs concern for the well being of the Institution's financial bottom line?

In other words, those psychological meds cost money, and what better way to reign in any pennies possible than by just eliminating from the GWU rolls all those troublesome types who need the meds in the first place

Granted, that's heated rhetoric more than a provable assertion, but considering GWU's heated rhetoric & over-aggressive response to Nott's logic, I stand behind it just as much as GWU does it's claims

An in that regard

The counseling center staff followed ethical and professional guidelines and didn't disclose confidential information, Schario said. She can't discuss specifics of the case but said officials can find out about students through many sources, including roommates and dorm staff.

Okay, fair enough, but what procedures & protocols does GWU have in place to actually CONFIRM any anonymous tips they receive, in this case specifically or in general?

And in another furious head-exploding moment, we learn that Nott's treatment was actually considered "due process"

His suspension is the procedure they use to ensure due process, she said. GWU is considering changes, Schario said, including whether judicial proceedings are the best way to handle such cases.

Wow, judicial proceedings as part of "due process", why, that's so crazy it just might work!!!

Oh, and one more thing GWU point to consider

It takes an extraordinary circumstance for the university to step in, she said. As to whether there needs to be a suicide attempt or violent act, she said, "sometimes yes. There could be words expressing a behavior, a suicide attempt, other potentially endangering behaviors."

So students don't even actually have to attempt suicide, or act out violently against others, or make threats of any kind towards anyone else, to be judged harshly by GWU

GWU sounds like such a perfectly LOVELY institution run by a competent & caring crew indeed


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