Can a School be Held Liable for Injuries to a Student?

When you think of school fights, you probably aren’t thinking about talking with a premise liability lawyer, but there are certain circumstances where assaults that occur between students can lead to legal liability for the school.

Schools are a somewhat complicated space for the law because liability depends on what kind of school it is and how the assault took place. For instance, in public schools, you essentially assume that it’s a government building, which allows the school to operate with a certain level of immunity from civil disputes. 

However, that doesn’t mean that school faculty and staff can act with impunity; they have specific responsibilities implied in their roles as caregivers.

Here’s how liability works with schools:

The Environment

Like a long-term care facility, schools are responsible for providing a safe environment for children to learn and play in. This responsibility requires a school to ensure that its grounds are well-cared for.

Usually, if a school has a piece of equipment — such as a playground — they are required to ensure that it’s in good repair and that nothing about its general appearance would indicate a risk of injury. While schools are granted significant protections under the law, if they fail to address obvious signs of disrepair, then they have failed to provide the standard of care they are required to.

The People

Schools are responsible for protecting their students from harm on two fronts regarding people: the school employees and the students themselves.

In the case of employees, schools are liable for ensuring that faculty and staff are adequately trained and do not have any signs that would indicate they present a risk to your children. Key areas where these responsibilities come into play are in the training guidelines in the employee handbook and whether the school conducts background checks.

When it comes to students, the responsibilities are a bit different. Since school is mandated, students are responsible for showing up, regardless of disposition. However, in many cases, schools can have a “zero-touch” policy, which is a way of dealing with contact between students that could become inappropriate, such as assaults. 

A Question of “Foreseeability”

The critical thing that determines liability in the case of schools is whether the risk of injury was foreseeable. If the conditions of the school — whether that’s training, the environment, or the policies governing student interactions — are such that it’s easy to imagine an injury occurring, then the school may be liable for any injuries that occur.
If your child has been seriously injured and you’re interested in discussing a potential case of school negligence, you can talk with one of our personal injury lawyers serving New York City. Call Scaffidi & Associates to set up an appointment.

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