In Jersey City, New Jersey, the New Jersey Supreme Court informed a teacher that she could not take action against the school officials who called police on her and sent her for psychiatric evaluations for using the word “kill” in reference to the amount of stress she was under.
The woman, Sopharie Leang, is a Cambodian immigrant who taught English as a second language to students at a public school. She claims that she said her laryngitis on a particular day was brought on by stress and that her doctor told her that, “the amount of stress in my body could have killed some people.” But, another teacher, whom Ms. Leang was speaking to in front of a body of 22 students, claims she said, “I’m so stressed out I can kill 22 people.”
The school took decisive action, which the Supreme Court ruled was the right step to take. The school district was justified because an “appropriate and decisive response” was required in this case. The laws that define the boundary between teacher’s rights and student’s protections is a fine line that often needs to be tested, by cases such as this.
When the other teacher, Vladmir Ashworth noticed her behavior and poor appearance, he reported the situation to the school nurse and to the principal. At that time, the teacher was escorted to the nurse’s office to wait for the principal. When the principal returned to the school some time after being notified, Leang became further aggravated. At that time, the principal called the Jersey City Police Department stating that an emotionally disturbed person was at the school.
She was later taken to a hospital where it was determined she was under a lot of anxiety and her blood pressure was elevated, but she did not have any homicidal ideation. The teacher sued the school district and school officials for the situation claiming a list of claims including breach of contract, wrongful or constructive discharge, sexual harassment and several others. The claims were placed in one lawsuit, which was dismissed on judgment due to the lack of evidence in the case.
The case went in front of an appellate court, which restored some of the claims. After much deliberation, it was determined by the Supreme Court of New Jersey that Leang did not have any cause of action to sue the school officials for their actions.
If you are interested in reading the entire 46 page Supreme Court opinion click here.