Parents suing schools after children’s suicides

Some parents in California and across the nation have sued school districts saying they were negligent in not doing more to prevent the kids’ suicides, or even that they failed to notify parents of obvious signs the children were in trouble.

The acknowledgment of a successful suit sometimes has some healing effects for families. The effects on school districts can be to put into clearer focus the mental health of children as a central part of the school’s mission.

Daughter threatens suicide at school, but parents not told

One family is suing the school district of Yuba City, about 40 miles north of Sacramento.

According to the suit, the parents’ 12-year-old daughter texted a friend, writing she intended to kill herself. The friend tried to do the right thing, telling a teacher who then shared the information with staff, including the principal and the school counselor.

The counselor gave the child a questionnaire and apparently did little else, without even following school policy by notifying the girl’s parents.

The fact that any of this happened only became clear to the parents after their 12-year-old daughter died by suicide a month later.

Forcing districts to change priorities

There are other stories in California similarly hard to hear. But they too include parents on a mission to hold school districts accountable for keeping children safe.

One school district for parts of San Bernardino and Riverside counties is facing more than half a dozen suits claiming that the district does not take bullying seriously enough, leading to suicide in one student and thoughts suicide in others.

Information and accountability first, followed by trust

Most parents must find a way to trust schools with their children for many hours every weekday. Doing so nearly every day is not always easy.

When California school districts recently surveyed their students, it turned out about 20% have thoughts of suicide. Some school districts are much lower, and others are enormously higher.

A new analysis by the Southern California News Group recommends more information and testing, and some serious investments and changes in priorities.