Investigation opened by Department of Justice

Kayla Miller

The U.S. Department of Justice has opened an investigation into Northern Michigan University concerning a controversial policy around students who express thoughts of self-harm.

The original complaint that sparked the investigation came from an unnamed student who said he/she was asked to sign a Behavioral Agreement stating not to speak with friends about suicidal thoughts, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights (FIRE).

“With the Department of Justice, we are gladly cooperating with the investigation. We have spent a lot of time and energy and hope to come to a resolution,” said Derek Hall, assistant vice president of marketing and communications.

This is the not the first time that the policy has caught the attention of the community. An investigation into the policy was first opened in the fall semester of 2013 by the Department of Education.

The university has continually looked for guidance on policy 3.12 from the Department of Education since Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was changed in 2011.

Prior to 2011 universities could take action against a student who was either a threat-to-self or threat-to-others. After 2011, threat-to-self was removed from Title II. Title II of the ADA encompasses nondiscrimination on the basis of disability in state and local government services, according to ada.gov. The change left policy 3.12 in the student handbook needing review.

The practice of warning students to not speak about self-harm with peers was continued until early 2016.

NMU’s mental health policies have been heavily criticized, resulting in a petition surfacing in 2015 with more than 2,800 signatures calling for the removal of the policy.