(CN) – A school district is not liable for the death of a seventh-grader who hanged himself after experiencing problems at school, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled.
Joshua Markiewicz had behavioral problems and suffered from a learning disability, according to his teachers. Joshua’s mother, Heidi Mikell, disagreed and thought the teachers were trying to get her son removed from school.
Guidance counselor Lindy Moule made Joshua sign a “contract for safety” after a teacher’s aide overheard Joshua say he wanted to “blow his brains out.”
In the middle of the 2004-05 school year, Joshua was suspended for tipping over his desk and calling a teacher a “bitch.”
Mikell came to pick him up at school, and she and the vice principal agreed that it would be a good idea to return Joshua to home schooling. Joshua went home with his mother, went to his room and hanged himself.
In his suicide note, he mentioned that he was telling the truth about an incident that happened the previous day, in which he denied teacher Susan Allen’s allegation that he had referred to a pair of mints on his desk as medicine.
Mikell sued the school district, Moule and Allen for intentional infliction of emotional distress and wrongful death.
The trial court granted the school’s motion to dismiss the complaint, and Justice Duggan affirmed the decision.
Duggan disagreed with Mikell’s argument that Allen’s “extreme and outrageous” conduct led to Joshua’s suicide. Mikell claimed that Allen winked at Joshua to acknowledge the falsity of her accusation.
“While this alleged conduct was, at the very least, unprofessional and confrontational, it is insufficient to constitute extreme and outrageous conduct,” Duggan wrote.
Duggan also found that Moule and the school did not have a special relationship of “care” that would obligate them to prevent the child’s suicide.