Schools: A Battleground Inducing PTSS

On January 24 Division III of the Court of Appeals published a decision that is interesting not so much for its treatment of the law as for the glimpse of the world we live in. What do you do when you find in a high school student’s backpack papers entitled “2 Kill List” with the names of students and teachers on it. The decision is Jachetta v. Warden Joint Consolidated School District brought by a student who suffered post traumatic stress syndrome attributed to the response of the school. The responsible student was suspended for 45 days before being allowed back in school and then only after an extensive mental health examination. Five days after finding the list, all parents of students on the list were notified.

The Jachetta’s did not want the student to return to the school and withdrew their child from the school when the suspension elapsed and they developed with the district an alternative education program. The Jachetta’s demanded a full time tutor for their child but the district refused. The school district provided a counselor who diagnosed the child as having post traumatic stress syndrome.

The parent’s suit for negligence was dismissed by the trial court and the dismissal was sustained by the Court of Appeals. The Court said that there was no showing of how the school district violated reasonable expectations about the handling of the affair.

This case acquaints us with a less publicized side of things. There is a lot written about the psychology of students who snap into a murderous state but relatively little written about the fear of students who are forced into an environment in which that occurs. This is in part the cost of the extravagant media attention these events create. The extent of the media coverage was brought home to me in a trip last year to Borneo where a chieftain in a remote village (with a few old newspapers and a sometimes working t.v. set) asked me how I could live in America where children are slaughtered in school.


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