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No Discrimination Found Against Teacher Threatening Suicide

Jerri Todd suffers from a major depressive disorder. With the district’s knowledge of her disorder, she taught for many years at Fayette County School District, receiving accommodation as needed. In 2017, Todd purportedly threatened to kill herself and her son while speaking with fellow teachers. During a subsequent conversation, one teacher stated she observed Todd taking many Xanax during school hours. The teachers reported these incidents to the school’s administration. The school took steps to protect Todd’s son and had Todd evaluated at a local hospital, where she spent four days. Her doctor and the hospital both cleared Todd to return to work, stating she was not a threat. The school would not allow her to return to work yet because they were investigating the incidents. The school district placed her on leave; she told them she was protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Following new discussions of suicide by Toddy, the district terminated her for the “safety of students and staff in the school.”

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed the facts to determine whether Todd could proceed with her claim. She could not. According to the appellate court, the school district articulated legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for ending Todd’s employment, and she could not show those reasons were pretextual. Todd’s suicidal discussions and threats likely stemmed from her major depressive disorder. However, the district did not terminate her because of the disorder. Todd’s alleged threats to herself and others caused the district to terminate her. The “ADA does not require an employer to retain an employee who it believes behaved in a threatening and dangerous way,” the court stated. Todd’s medical clearance to return to work did not show that the school district’s decision was pretextual. Her continued suicidal threats after the clearance led to her firing.