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What duty does a school have when it learns one of its students has contemplated suicide?

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What duty does a school have when it learns one of its students has contemplated suicide?  That’s the question being asked in a lawsuit filed against Mundelein High School in Mundelein, Illinois.  The story is tragic.  In October of 2015, Mikyla Wren, a 14-year-old student of Mundelein High School, committed suicide.  Her family has brought a claim against the school district alleging that it failed to follow state-mandated protocols that could have helped save Mikyla’s life.

Did Mundelein High School do enough?

According to the complaint, the school became aware Mikyla was having issues about two weeks prior to her suicide.  Mikyla had a school issued laptop that alerts the school when certain words are used.  Mikyla’s laptop was flagged after she typed the word suicide while using the device.  The Dean of Students contacted Kelly Wren, Mikyla’s mother, informing her that her daughter’s computer had been flagged due to the use of suicide.

Kelly requested help in determining whether Mikyla was at risk.  The school assured Kelly that a social worker would meet with Mikyla to make a determination about her suicide risk level.  According to the complaint, unfortunately, that meeting never happened.  Instead, a social worker simply introduced herself to Mikyla, but failed to meet with Mikyla to discuss her potential suicidal thoughts.  Kelly was never informed about this introduction and  continued to contact the school asking when the meeting would occur.  The Dean of Students apologized for the delay, but assured her that a meeting would happen shortly.  According allegations of the Complaint, it does not seem that any meeting ever occurred.

The question is whether the school did enough to help prevent Mikyla’s suicide.  According to the complaint, not only did the school fail to meet with Mikyla, but they violated Illinois law.  In 2015, Illinois passed a law requiring all school boards to update their suicide prevention and awareness plans.  However, according to the Complaint, Mundelein High School had not revamped its policy since 1999.  Following her suicide, Mikyla’s family contacted the school trying to find out what had and had not been done.   According to her family, they were “stonewalled” by the school district.

We will continue to monitor this case as it proceeds.  There is nothing more important than making sure that our youth receive all the help and treatment they need.  Whether Mundelein High School did all it could to help prevent Mikyla’s suicide is an important question.  Hopefully this case will help spur other school districts to adopt more comprehensive plans regarding their students’ mental health.

If you, or someone you care about, has questions about Illinois law, contact one of the experienced Illinois attorneys at Hipskind & McAninch for a FREE CASE CONSULTATION at: 618.641.9189 | 314.312.2930 | info@hm-attorneys.com

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