When Mandatory Medical Leave Does More Harm Than Good

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Aug 22, 2022 | 0 Comments

If you're struggling with challenges or crises and need to talk to someone, you can. Text ‘HOME' to the Crisis Text Line at 741741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

Navigating the pressures and stressors of collegiate life can be overwhelming enough for any student. When you have mental or physical health challenges, those pressures can easily feel insurmountable.

Most colleges state their willingness to help students mitigate this pressure, at least to some extent. At the very least, you'd hope that a university would provide needed support if a student struggled with dangerous thought patterns.

Unfortunately, the existing support methods can exacerbate a student's challenges.

How One University's Medical Leave Policies Failed to Protect Student Health

After time spent in the university's psychiatric ward, one Dartmouth student was ready to move forward. As part of her healing trajectory, which included therapy and medication, she consistently insisted that remaining on campus was very important to her.

The student was dealing with a wide range of stressors. She'd missed work, deadlines were slipping away, and — though she continued to battle with tendencies towards self-harm — she didn't want to return to the hospital or leave school.

Despite making her wishes very clear, the student was shortly placed on mandatory medical leave instead of being offered any other avenues of support for her health.

A month later, the student received a notice informing her that her absence was causing necessary setbacks to her hoped-for collegiate plans. An hour after that, the student died by suicide.

What Are Typical Mandatory Medical Leave Policies?

The specifics of medical leave policies vary from university to university. At Dartmouth, the school's stated policies describe a long, considered process that includes a student's ability to take a voluntary leave first — and even notes protocols for proper notification to everyone involved.

Other schools may keep things a little vaguer. For example, Wesleyan's mandatory medical leave policy states that a student may experience mandatory medical leave if:

  • They are unwilling or unable to take care of themselves
  • They are objectively endangering themselves or others
  • They do not want to take a voluntary medical leave

It's key to note that just because a school has stated policies does not mean the school will follow them. Often, a school will state support for the suffering student but may act with other motivations in mind. And, of course, even if a school sends a student home with the best intentions, other factors are at play.

Those students may still be responsible for enormous student loans, receive disastrously unhelpful reminders about their lack of progression, and (if they're able to return to school) experience little assistance rejoining the academic world.

Attorney Joseph D. Lento is Here to Help You Protect Your Health And Academic Career

No matter what your academic goals are, you need to be able to prioritize your health and happiness as you move towards the outcome best for you. If you need help getting support from your school, you need someone to be relentlessly in your corner.

Joseph D. Lento is that someone. Joseph D. Lento is a national student defense attorney ready to hold your school accountable to its policies. For more information about the support we provide, contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 today.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients nationwide. Attorney Lento and his team represent students and others in disciplinary cases and various other proceedings at colleges and universities across the United States. Attorney Lento has helped countless students, professors, and others in academia at more than a thousand colleges and universities across the United States, and when necessary, he and his team have sought justice on behalf of clients in courts across the nation. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide, and he can help you or your student address any school-related issue or concern anywhere in the United States.


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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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