The parents of a former Stanford student have sued the university following their daughter’s suicide, according to multiple news sources that have reviewed the complaint. A senior and goalkeeper for the school’s soccer team, Katie Meyer ended her life in her dorm room on February 28. At the time of her death, the 22-year-old faced disciplinary action from Stanford that put her degree on hold and threatened to remove her from the university.
Meyer Charged Over Coffee Incident
The disciplinary charges stemmed from an incident where Meyer allegedly spilled coffee on a Stanford football player accused of sexually assaulting a female soccer player. It is unclear whether the spill was accidental or whether Meyer was defending her soccer teammate.
What is clear is that Meyer’s parents believe that Stanford acted “negligently and recklessly” in handling the incident, which was “minor in nature,” according to the lawsuit as quoted in the Washington Post. The football player allegedly did not feel that the coffee spill merited a complaint with the university. However, the dean of residential education reported it and Stanford started investigating.
Lawsuit Calls Out ‘Shocking’ After-Hours Email, Failure to Follow Up
In the months after the coffee incident, Meyer told Stanford employees that she was distressed about the disciplinary action and feared the incident could destroy her future. At around 7 p.m. on the night of her suicide—the last day Stanford could take action on the matter—Meyer received an email indicating that she would be formally charged with violating the school’s standards of conduct.
Despite Meyer immediately replying that was “shocked and distraught,” according to the complaint as quoted in USA Today, Stanford employees “made no effort whatsoever” to check on her well-being. The lawsuit goes on to argue that Meyer’s suicide occurred “solely in response to the shocking and deeply distressing information she received from Stanford while alone in her room without any support or resources.”
Student Mental Health is in ‘Crisis’
The lawsuit comes at a time of increased mental health problems on college campuses across the U.S. With almost three-quarters of college students reporting moderate or severe psychological distress, the American Psychological Association puts it simply: “Student mental health is in crisis.” Higher demand for services hasn’t been met with a corresponding rise in funding, leaving schools struggling to fulfill the mental health needs of students.
Stanford defends its actions and denies wrongdoing in the Meyer case, according to the Washington Post, but the complaint notes that at least nine Stanford students have died by suicide since 2019. The lawsuit also references an earlier university committee determination that Stanford’s disciplinary process takes too long and is “overly punitive.”
Student Suicide Lawsuits
While the court system has traditionally ruled that colleges are not legally liable in student suicide lawsuits, schools may be held responsible in some cases—especially if they ignored clear signs of the student’s distress or depression. If you lost a child to suicide and believe their school failed to adequately try to help, contact us today for a free consultation with an experienced, compassionate attorney at Altman & Altman LLP.