Court rules school can’t be sued for girl’s suicide

ST. PAUL (AP) — The ninth-grader told a counselor she was thinking about killing herself. Three months later, she wrote an English class essay about killing herself. Another month after that, she wrote a letter to a friend about killing herself.
Then she killed herself. And her parents sued.
But the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the Virginia, Minn., school district and the guidance counselor who knew of the girl’s statements cannot be sued.
The girl’s parents claimed that the district was negligent in not having a suicide prevention policy, and that the school guidance counselor should have immediately notified them of all the girl’s suicidal statements. The counselor had informed them of her first statements four months before she killed herself and recommended professional counseling, which she received.
In a 2-1 decision, the Court of Appeals ruled the district and the counselor are protected by discretionary immunity, which covers governmental organizations making decisions about public policy.
“The tragedy of the student’s death is even more painful with the possibility that more communication or differently timed communication might have prevented it,” the court wrote. “But the facts demonstrate the many factors that affect such a decision, and the issue is not whether, in hindsight, a different decision might have averted the tragedy.”
In a dissent, Judge Martin Mansur agreed that the district is immune from the lawsuit but said the lawsuit against the guidance counselor ought to proceed.
“While guidance counselors must be afforded some degree of discretion, that discretion is not unbounded and must be cautiously exercised when dealing with possibly suicidal students,” Mansur wrote.