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  #1  
Old 04-12-2012, 10:25 AM
Whack-a-Mole Whack-a-Mole is offline
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Someone threatens to commit suicide. You egg them on. Can you be sued if the person commits suicide?

Over on Reddit there is a post detailing a story of a guy who posted on Reddit that he wanted to kill himself. Apparently some Redditors egged him on (not all did) and the man jumped from a hotel window killing himself some short time later.

The family of the man has decided to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the Redditors and some others.

The debate here is not whether the posters who egged him on were despicable (they were) but whether Reddit should provide the names and whether those people should be held accountable in a civil court for their actions?

I cannot find what the people accused of egging him on wrote since they seem to have deleted their posts (admittedly I did not try looking very hard so perhaps someone else can find it).

I realize anyone can be sued for anything but curious about people's opinion on whether they should be held accountable (beyond their own conscience assuming they have one).

ETA: I am not involved in this case in any fashion. Just saw it and thought it raised some interesting questions.

Last edited by Whack-a-Mole; 04-12-2012 at 10:28 AM..
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  #2  
Old 04-12-2012, 10:39 AM
Scumpup Scumpup is offline
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It has been said that you can sue anyone for anything. Winning the suit is another matter.
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  #3  
Old 04-12-2012, 12:36 PM
Kimmy_Gibbler Kimmy_Gibbler is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scumpup View Post
It has been said that you can sue anyone for anything. Winning the suit is another matter.
Can we get a standing convention announced that when posters ask "Can you be sued for T?", they mean, "Will a plaintiff who institutes a suit alleging T survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim?"

Thanks a mint!

Last edited by Kimmy_Gibbler; 04-12-2012 at 12:39 PM..
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  #4  
Old 04-12-2012, 01:00 PM
Scumpup Scumpup is offline
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Originally Posted by Kimmy_Gibbler View Post
Can we get a standing convention announced that when posters ask "Can you be sued for T?", they mean, "Will a plaintiff who institutes a suit alleging T survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim?"

Thanks a mint!

My reply was marginal. Yours doesn't rise to that despite your credentials. And you're welcome.
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  #5  
Old 04-12-2012, 01:31 PM
Bridget Burke Bridget Burke is online now
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In the early 70's, I worked for a criminal lawyer downtown. He was a most colorful character.

Occasionally, an old wino would drop by for a handout. The story I heard: He had once been an attorney, a friend of my boss. He convinced his wife to jump out of a window at the Rice Hotel & was convicted of "mental murder"--a charge dating back to Elizabethan times. After doing some time, he became a wino.

Internet research hasn't corroborated this story; some kind of game called "Mental Murder" came up multiple times. The lurid Annals of Texas Murders go back before the 'net--I might use some upcoming time off to research this matter (& a few others.)
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  #6  
Old 04-12-2012, 01:58 PM
hajario hajario is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scumpup View Post
My reply was marginal. Yours doesn't rise to that despite your credentials. And you're welcome.
You reply was way worse than marginal.

From the OP:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Whack-a-Mole View Post
I realize anyone can be sued for anything but curious about people's opinion on whether they should be held accountable (beyond their own conscience assuming they have one).
Your reply:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scumpup View Post
It has been said that you can sue anyone for anything. Winning the suit is another matter.
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  #7  
Old 04-12-2012, 03:05 PM
BlinkingDuck BlinkingDuck is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kimmy_Gibbler View Post
Can we get a standing convention announced that when posters ask "Can you be sued for T?", they mean, "Will a plaintiff who institutes a suit alleging T survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim?"

Thanks a mint!
But then how will people sound all wise, knowledgeable and stuff without contributing a damn thing?
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  #8  
Old 04-13-2012, 11:30 AM
lawbuff lawbuff is offline
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Originally Posted by Scumpup View Post
It has been said that you can sue anyone for anything. Winning the suit is another matter.
As Kimmy points out though, a meritless claim will not only be subject to a dismissal, but the Attorney filing one may get sanctioned and the Plaintiff may be counter sued for Abuse of Process.


Those deemed vexatious litigators need permission to go forward even before the defendant is served.
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  #9  
Old 04-13-2012, 03:45 PM
Typo Negative Typo Negative is offline
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Originally Posted by lawbuff View Post
Those deemed vexatious litigators need permission to go forward even before the defendant is served.
As I understand it (or misunderstand it), that's a club that judges don't like to take out of their bag.
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  #10  
Old 04-12-2012, 10:48 AM
PrettyVacant PrettyVacant is offline
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If a person is killed because of the wrongful conduct of a person or persons, the decedent's heirs and other beneficiaries may file a wrongful death action against those responsible for the decedent's death. This area of tort law is governed by statute. Wrongful death statutes vary from state to state, but in general they define who may sue for wrongful death and what, if any, limits may be applied to an award of damages.
http://lawbrain.com/wiki/Wrongful_Death
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  #11  
Old 04-12-2012, 11:16 AM
Bricker Bricker is online now
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Guy says, "I want to kill myself," and crowd chants, "Go ahead and do it!"

I think you'd have a very tough time showing that the crowd's actions were the proximate cause of the death.
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  #12  
Old 04-12-2012, 11:20 AM
Anaamika Anaamika is online now
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What I never understand about these cases is the people/media that go on and on about this "startling display of human indecency", to take words from the linked article. Really? You are surprised that some humans are total bastards, especially in an anonymous situation? Where have you been for the last, oh, 20,000 years of human history? Did you just wake up, like Rip van Winkle?
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  #13  
Old 04-12-2012, 11:33 AM
grude grude is offline
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Originally Posted by Anaamika View Post
What I never understand about these cases is the people/media that go on and on about this "startling display of human indecency", to take words from the linked article. Really? You are surprised that some humans are total bastards, especially in an anonymous situation? Where have you been for the last, oh, 20,000 years of human history? Did you just wake up, like Rip van Winkle?
Inhumanity has nothing to do with it, I don't consider myself a troll or shit stirrer but internet death threats are a waste of time all around. Often the poster is a noob or posting anonymous and never ever responds to follow up or engage in conversation. The post itself is often a troll and just stirring shit and creating drama, its the equivalent of posting "I have a bomb and I'm going to set it off" what exactly can other posters do?

Oh the humanity!
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  #14  
Old 04-12-2012, 12:12 PM
KarlGauss KarlGauss is online now
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At least one person has been convicted of encouraging (successful) suicides.
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  #15  
Old 04-12-2012, 11:29 AM
Whack-a-Mole Whack-a-Mole is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bricker View Post
Guy says, "I want to kill myself," and crowd chants, "Go ahead and do it!"

I think you'd have a very tough time showing that the crowd's actions were the proximate cause of the death.
It maybe different from state-to-state but I thought in civil cases the court could deem someone as being partially responsible for whatever and hold them liable as a result.

E.G. The damages are deemed to be $100,000 and they find you are 25% responsible for what happened so you are on the hook for $25,000.
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  #16  
Old 04-12-2012, 12:13 PM
Bricker Bricker is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Whack-a-Mole View Post
It maybe different from state-to-state but I thought in civil cases the court could deem someone as being partially responsible for whatever and hold them liable as a result.

E.G. The damages are deemed to be $100,000 and they find you are 25% responsible for what happened so you are on the hook for $25,000.
Not my area of law, but as far as I can recall, a wrongful death action includes a proximate cause element.
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  #17  
Old 04-12-2012, 02:43 PM
Kimmy_Gibbler Kimmy_Gibbler is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bricker View Post
Guy says, "I want to kill myself," and crowd chants, "Go ahead and do it!"

I think you'd have a very tough time showing that the crowd's actions were the proximate cause of the death.
Ah, you got as far as proximate cause? As I recall from old torts class, the elements of negligence (and wrongful death is a species of negligence) are:
  1. Duty of care to the plaintiff
  2. Breach of that duty
  3. Actual causation ("but for" causation; but for the negligence, the harm would not have occurred)
  4. Proximate causation (was the negligence sufficiently close in causation to the harm or was it more like the death of a Cretaceous butterfly causing the election of a 21st century facsistic president)
  5. Damages

And that the earlier in the sequence you can nip the claim in the bud, the better.

I would argue that the Redditors had no duty to the now-deceased; it would be untenable to propose we have a duty to strangers reading our posts on the internet. Do I have a duty to anyone who could look this page up on the internet, even if they never even join the thread? Preposterous!

Failing that, if it were held that their was the duty of reasonable care while performing any acts that could foreseeably harm others (which is the baseline duty of care we are all said to owe others), I would argue it was not breached here.
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  #18  
Old 04-15-2012, 09:19 AM
jtgain jtgain is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kimmy_Gibbler View Post
Ah, you got as far as proximate cause? As I recall from old torts class, the elements of negligence (and wrongful death is a species of negligence) are:
  1. Duty of care to the plaintiff
  2. Breach of that duty
  3. Actual causation ("but for" causation; but for the negligence, the harm would not have occurred)
  4. Proximate causation (was the negligence sufficiently close in causation to the harm or was it more like the death of a Cretaceous butterfly causing the election of a 21st century facsistic president)
  5. Damages

And that the earlier in the sequence you can nip the claim in the bud, the better.

I would argue that the Redditors had no duty to the now-deceased; it would be untenable to propose we have a duty to strangers reading our posts on the internet. Do I have a duty to anyone who could look this page up on the internet, even if they never even join the thread? Preposterous!

Failing that, if it were held that their was the duty of reasonable care while performing any acts that could foreseeably harm others (which is the baseline duty of care we are all said to owe others), I would argue it was not breached here.
I would argue that you have no duty of reasonable care to the suicidee if you sit by and silently watch. However, if you commit any affirmative act, you have a duty to anyone whom your act may effect. So, I would say that there is a duty and breach here.

As for proximate cause, an argument could be made that the taunts were the final causation of the suicide. He really wasn't going to do it, but the taunts were the act that caused the death.

As for the jumping as a supervening cause or comparative negligence, I would argue that a person who is contemplating suicide is not in a lucid state of mind and is incapable of negligence.
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  #19  
Old 04-12-2012, 09:10 PM
SCSimmons SCSimmons is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bricker View Post
Guy says, "I want to kill myself," and crowd chants, "Go ahead and do it!"

I think you'd have a very tough time showing that the crowd's actions were the proximate cause of the death.
What if they double-dog-dared him?
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  #20  
Old 04-12-2012, 11:19 AM
PrettyVacant PrettyVacant is offline
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It's not a crowd though, it's idenfiable individual voices - like this thread.
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  #21  
Old 04-13-2012, 05:05 AM
Namkcalb Namkcalb is offline
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Originally Posted by PrettyVacant View Post
It's not a crowd though, it's idenfiable individual voices - like this thread.
The problem is a lot of things can provoke suicide if someone is sufficiently unwell.

For example, this thread might be intepreted as encouraging those who care about the environment to kill themselves.

I am a lot better now, but nine months ago I attempted suicide in part due to environmental guilt(fish to be precise). So of course, I found that topic rather concerning.

The question is; where shall we draw the line? what debates would we censor just to reduce the suicide risk of a potential depressed lurker?
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  #22  
Old 04-13-2012, 09:48 AM
Simplicio Simplicio is online now
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Originally Posted by Namkcalb View Post
The problem is a lot of things can provoke suicide if someone is sufficiently unwell.

For example, this thread might be intepreted as encouraging those who care about the environment to kill themselves.

I am a lot better now, but nine months ago I attempted suicide in part due to environmental guilt(fish to be precise). So of course, I found that topic rather concerning.

The question is; where shall we draw the line? what debates would we censor just to reduce the suicide risk of a potential depressed lurker?
Meh, I think there's a pretty clear difference between talking about overfishing with someone thats depressed about it and actively telling someone who says they're going to kill themselves that they should do it.
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  #23  
Old 04-12-2012, 02:24 PM
Typo Negative Typo Negative is offline
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Sounds like it should be an uphill battle.

The anonymous poster on a message board says he wants to commit suicide. We have all seen enough MB trolls to know that an anonymous poster may be pulling our collective leg. If I do not believe that the poster is actually suicidal, and I say 'Do it!!!'....well, would my reasonable belief that the poster is lying save me? (IMO, any belief that another poster is lying is entirely reasonable)

If a person posts that they are suicidal, have they they not already declared an intent, or at least a disposition?

Would all posters who urged a suicidal person to kill themselves be equally liable? Could it be shown that one poster was more persuasive than another?

Personally, I believe all who urged the suicide are dicks, but not liable.

Last edited by Typo Negative; 04-12-2012 at 02:25 PM..
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  #24  
Old 04-12-2012, 02:33 PM
Typo Negative Typo Negative is offline
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Originally Posted by spooje View Post

If a person posts that they are suicidal, have they they not already declared an intent, or at least a disposition?
Meant to add "so how could we possibly know how much stock the suicidal person gave to any post, if any?"
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  #25  
Old 04-12-2012, 02:36 PM
hajario hajario is online now
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A defense lawyer could find millions of cases where someone threatened suicide but didn't do it and maybe show that it is reasonable to assume that the threats weren't serious.
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  #26  
Old 04-12-2012, 03:20 PM
Oakminster Oakminster is offline
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Originally Posted by Whack-a-Mole View Post

The debate here is not whether the posters who egged him on were despicable (they were) but whether Reddit should provide the names
I address only this point. I think they'll have to turn over whatever information they may have regarding the identity of the posters involved as part of the discovery process. If I were drafting the complaint, I'd probably include claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress (in the alternative), cyber-something or other (think there may be various bullying/stalking/harassment statutes that may arguably apply, would research prior to filing), etc. The goal being to plead enough causes of action so that at least something will survive the inevitable motion to dismiss. Discovery may or may not produce enough evidence to survive a motion for summary judgment, but that's a later battle.
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  #27  
Old 04-12-2012, 03:48 PM
Rachellelogram Rachellelogram is online now
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There's a moral duty to call the police when someone threatens suicide. Whether a legal duty was breached, I cannot say for certain. Also, unless the eggers-on in question were mandated reporters, it's hard to argue that they had a legal duty to even report the incident.

I bet anything Reddit enacts a policy change after this incident, as they should. Pretty much every message board I've ever been a part of will contact the police if suicide is threatened. So Reddit may have some responsibility for failure to intervene, if one of their mods was aware of the situation and did nothing.

It'd be relevant to know whether timely intervention would have changed the outcome of this situation. Did he make the post on a smartphone and then jump immediately, before even seeing the responses? Or was there a gap of a few hours, during which time intervention could have saved his life? Time will tell.

IANAL, obviously.
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  #28  
Old 04-12-2012, 03:57 PM
Simplicio Simplicio is online now
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I've heard they're going to subpeona Dr. John Gabriel as an expert witness, regarding his sociological theories.
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  #29  
Old 04-12-2012, 09:01 PM
PandaBear77 PandaBear77 is offline
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I certainly wouldn't vote to convict if the victim's sister tracked down those who egged on her brother and gave 'em some free dental work.

I'm not saying she should DO it, mind you ...

[Chris Rock]

... but I'd understand

[/Chris Rock]
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  #30  
Old 04-12-2012, 09:49 PM
Trepa Mayfield Trepa Mayfield is offline
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This reminds me of our own erstwhile severe depressive poster, mookieblaylock. Did he ever threaten suicide before he got banned? If so, what did the mods here do? I remember that he threatened self-harm at one point...
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  #31  
Old 04-13-2012, 11:23 AM
lawbuff lawbuff is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Whack-a-Mole View Post
Over on Reddit there is detailing a story of a guy who posted on Reddit that he wanted to kill himself. Apparently some Redditors egged him on (not all did) and the man jumped from a hotel window killing himself some short time later.

The family of the man has decided to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the Redditors and some others.

The debate here is not whether the posters who egged him on were despicable (they were) but whether Reddit should provide the names and whether those people should be held accountable in a civil court for their actions?
I don't know if you remember the Jenny Jones talk show tragic case, but a Wrongful Death suit was filed, here is the opinion, the MI SC declined review. I won't brief the details, you can read it.

Short answer, it depends on the state and the exact conduct of the aggressor's I would imagine.


It discusses Causation, as Bricker points out, and the doctrine of Forseeability, etc.

http://coa.courts.mi.gov/documents/O...45.OPN.COA.PDF
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  #32  
Old 04-13-2012, 07:57 PM
Randvek Randvek is offline
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Originally Posted by lawbuff View Post
Short answer, it depends on the state and the exact conduct of the aggressor's I would imagine.
My off-the-cuff impression (torts is not my specialty), I would imagine that it would also depend a great deal on whether the applicable law recognizes contributory negligence or not. But I haven't dealt with torts since the bar exam.
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  #33  
Old 04-14-2012, 04:56 PM
handsomeharry handsomeharry is offline
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Would any of this tie in with a 'Right-to-Die' scenario, or is there still no legal right to suicide? I'm not up to date on any of that.
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  #34  
Old 04-13-2012, 04:57 PM
Bryan Ekers Bryan Ekers is offline
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I suppose you'd be liable, if the threatened method of suicide was to eat eggs despite a lethal allergy.
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  #35  
Old 04-14-2012, 06:08 PM
Quartz Quartz is offline
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In England and Wales, suicide was a crime until 1961, so you'd have been participating in a crime.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wiki
assisting a suicide in Scotland can in some circumstances constitute murder or culpable homicide.
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  #36  
Old 04-21-2012, 03:02 PM
cynyc cynyc is offline
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OT, but still...

I was once dispatched to an elementary school as part of a crisis management team.

We're talking little kids.

During recess they saw a man standing on the edge of a roof. Maybe 6 stories. Some of them started yelling, "Jump! Jump!" He did. He died.

It was awful. I've never been so farmisht. What do I tell a classroom of 3rd graders? (And I don't do befuddled often, if ever.)

What the hell was I going to tell these kids? It was a one shot deal. The best I could do was tell them that I knew "for a fact" that they did not make him jump.

Ack.

Last edited by cynyc; 04-21-2012 at 03:03 PM.. Reason: because i'm a moron
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