GW denied any wrongdoing in a response it filed Monday to a lawsuit from a former student who alleges the University breached his confidentiality when he sought depression treatment.
In a civil suit filed in the D.C. Superior Court in October, former student Jordan Nott alleges that GW policies discriminate against students with mental illness and stigmatize those who seek help. He also said that as a sophomore in fall 2004, information he shared with the University Counseling Center and GW Hospital was shared with school administrators, leading to his suspension and being barred from campus.
Nott is seeking damages stemming from eight complaints against the University, including alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Housing Act, the D.C. Mental Health Information Act and the D.C. Human Rights Act. Nott’s complaint also accuses the University of intentionally inflicting emotional distress and invading his privacy. The University denied any guilt in of those areas in its response all field with the Superior Court this week.
Tracy Schario, GW’s director of Media Relations, maintained that the counseling center never shared any of Nott’s information with administrators.
“The facts, as we are presenting them, do not indicate that the counseling center notified the dean of students,” Schario said.
Nott’s suit said he was not suicidal and never threatened suicide, but that he did have general suicidal thoughts; aware that his roommate would be out of town for the weekend, he checked himself into GW Hospital in the early morning of Oct. 27, 2004, for mental health treatment. Shortly thereafter he received an interim suspension from the school and ultimately withdrew voluntarily.
Schario said it might have been a friend, a relative, a community facilitator or someone else who alerted GW to the hospitalization. When asked why she believes it is the counseling center who told administrators Nott had been hospitalized, instead of one of the people Schario suggested, Nott’s lawyer Karen Bower said she could not comment on the specifics of the case.
GW also requested that a judge dismiss the suits against individual administrators. Nott is suing eight administrators, though his lawyers have said they will not sue those people in their individual capacities in some parts of the suit. The individuals are University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Lehman, Dean of Students Linda Donnels, Assistant Dean of Students Rebecca Sawyer, University Counseling Center director Diane DePalma, Student Judicial Services Director Tara Woolfson, SJS Assistant Director Michael Gieseke and University Police Chief Dolores Stafford.
“We feel like (Nott’s) arguments are (about) policy. While individuals make policy, they make it on behalf of the University,” Schario said.
Schario added it could take six to eight months, or possibly even longer, for the case to be resolved.