In the year after the Virginia Tech shootings of 33 students and faculty, colleges and universities have been on high alert for potentially troubled students. Experts worry, says the Christian Science Monitor, that when students with serious mental issues are unfairly barred from campus, it doesn’t improve campus safety and could drive the problems underground. Kevin Kruger of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators says a growing number of faculty have been calling administrators about disruptive students, saying things like, “I want them out of there.”
One student took an overdose of pills and then threw them up and sought counseling. The next day, the school placed her on leave. “I felt I was being punished for my depression,” she told the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. “Instead of trying to learn more about me, they kicked me out so someone else could deal with me.” As a result of a lawsuit, Virginia barred public universities from penalizing students solely for suicide attempts or treatment for suicidal thoughts. If struggling students are automatically placed on leave, others won’t want to come forward about their own or a friend’s troubles, “and that breakdown of communication will be very harmful,” says Gary Pavela of the University of Maryland.