Ivy League Undergrad Sues University for Alleged Ouster After Suicide Attempt [Details]
A Princeton University student is suing the university and seven of its administrators after allegedly being forced to withdraw from the university following a suicide attempt in 2012.
The student, who is identified by the pseudonym W.P. in the lawsuit, has been diagnosed with major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder. On Feb. 25, 2012, the then-freshman ingested about 20 tablets of the prescription antidepressant Trazodone. According to the federal lawsuit filed last week, he immediately went to the campus health center for help. After several nights at a local hospital, he was informed by the university that he had been banned from campus.
The university considered W.P. to be at “extremely high risk of having another dangerous episode” and claimed the intense treatment programs he would require would not allow him to continue as a full-time student. According to Princeton’s undergraduate guidelines, all students must carry a minimum of three courses per semester to avoid forced withdrawal.
Once released from the hospital, doctors said he did not pose a significant threat to himself or to other students. He asked to return to school while undergoing outpatient therapy. He was denied this request, in addition to the proposal that he live off-campus and attend the university part-time.
In the complaint against the university and personnel including former President Shirley Tilghman, Dean of Undergraduate Students Kathleen Deignan and John Kolligan, Jr., the executive director of university health services, the student, who is representing himself, claims that Princeton’s reaction to the episode has caused him “extreme embarrassment, continuing stress and mental anguish, as well as out-of-pocket expenses, foregone wages, and reputational injury,” the Daily Princetonian reports.
Although he is now reenrolled at the university as a sophomore, he claims his year of absence will forever mark his academic record and affect his ability to compete with his peers. He also claims the university violated the Fair Housing Amendments Act, the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, and that Princeton officials illegally released his confidential medical records.
Princeton University officials refuse to discuss a pending case, but spokesman Martin Mbugua told the New Jersey Law Journal that the college takes matters of student wellness and mental health very seriously. “[Our] actions and decisions are driven by deep concern for the affected student and all other students,” Mbugua said.
According to the American College Health Association, suicide is the second leading cause of death among college-age students.