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I know that a teacher should report to someone if they think that a student is having suicidal thoughts. But is there a law in New York State that requires it?

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This is a difficult question that does not have a clear answer.

There is a duty to report suspected child abuse or neglect, but suicidal tendencies don't necessarily flow from either of these causes.

There are also duties of a teacher in loco parentis as the person temporarily having custody of a child from which one could argue that this duty arises, as well as a duty not to abuse or neglect a child that is in your custody.

But, what constitutes acts sufficient to trigger this obligation if it is not imminent (e.g. the child trying to jump out of a fifth story window, or cut an artery while class is in session), is very muddy.

Also, in a public school, there would also be an additional layer of governmental immunity of a teacher from liability unless it is expressly waived by statute.

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  • Based on what you are saying, if a teacher suspects that a student may attempt to commit suicide they have no legal obligations to report this or to do anything in New York. (Obviously, there are moral obligations, and besides for that, most teachers care about their students...)
    – Burt
    Aug 9, 2021 at 3:03
  • @Burt This is not what I said. There is some duty, but it is difficult to determine when it applies, and it may be fairly modest, applying only to more clear cases.
    – ohwilleke
    Aug 9, 2021 at 3:05
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    I see. So there may be some legal responsibility, but not a clear law.
    – Burt
    Aug 9, 2021 at 15:07
  • @Burt Yes. That's correct.
    – ohwilleke
    Aug 9, 2021 at 19:04
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    @Burt In the case of a cautious and risk averse teacher, the uncertainty favors reporting when it isn't entirely clear that the teach must do so, in addition to moral considerations. Also the strength of the moral intuition and the outcome of legal disputes when outcomes are uncertain are frequently closely related because the decision makers are fellow well socialized adults who make this decision influenced by their own moral compass. One should be wary that loopholes or workarounds might be found any time that strong moral intuition and legal rights differ.
    – ohwilleke
    Aug 9, 2021 at 19:16

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