Erin and Timothy Gallagher were heartbroken by their son's suicide on Feb. 3, but their pain only grew when they discovered his school counselor knew he'd had suicidal thoughts and "kept it a secret from us." That's the claim made in a $5 million wrongful-death lawsuit against Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia. The couple says Jay Gallagher's friend told counselor Richard Bader at Potomac Falls High that Gallagher was having "suicidal thoughts," harming himself, "lacking self-worth," and "crying alone in his room because he doesn't seem to have a good relationship with his parents," three weeks before his death. Bader met with Gallagher, but didn't report the behavior to his parents, the suit states, per the Washington Post.
That was a clear violation of the school's Suicide Prevention Action Plan, which also required Bader to fill out a suicide screening form, the suit states. Yet "the schools system's position on the matter has been, essentially, 'If your child is suicidal and we know it, we may or may not tell you,'" the Gallaghers say, per the Loudoun Times-Mirror. "That's an unstated and intolerable policy. It defies both the LCPS Suicide Prevention Procedures and all common sense." The couple's lawyer adds, "This was Jay Gallagher's only opportunity to be saved." However, Bader's lawyer says Gallagher told Bader he was not suicidal and asked him not to speak to his parents about their meeting. As Gallagher was 18 years old and had that right, "Bader didn't do anything wrong." (A beautiful gesture followed a girl's suicide.)