Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Do professors have a Tarasoff type duty to act?

Prof. Jonathan Turley reports today on an incident that reminded me of our discussion of the duty created by Tarasoff v. Regents of the Univ of California. Remember that in that case the Court recognizes a duty to warn an unsuspecting possible victim of a patient who has expressed some level of desire to commit violence. Part of the question not answered by the Court's analysis is when does the duty start. Professor Turley's report today tells the story of a University Professor who called the police in response to a student's report on the right to carry guns. Here is a portion of the story: "Professor Paula Anderson has a curious approach to controversial topics. Some of us encourage students to taken controversial positions to generate passionate class debate. Professor Anderson, according to critics, calls the police. She is accused of calling police on her student John Wahlberg at the Central Connecticut States University after he and two fellow students argued in favor of allowing students and teachers to carry weapons on campus, citing the tragedy at Virginia Tech. Other faculty members have defended her and suggested that there is more to this story. The students were asked to discuss a “relevant issue in the media,” and the students argued that the death [toll] would have been lower had teachers and students been allowed to carry weapons. After his presentation in October, Wahlberg, 23, was pulled into the police station where officers demanded to know where he kept his weapons. They are all lawfully registered and locked in a safe. Anderson is quoted in claiming that it was a matter of safety that led to her dropping a dime on her own student:“It is also my responsibility as a teacher to protect the well-being of our students, and the campus community at all times."” Professor Turley's comment is available here. For the full story, click here.

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