When Can a School Be Held Liable for a Child’s Injuries?
Our children spend nearly a quarter of their waking hours on school property. Therefore, it is not necessarily surprising that roughly 25 percent of all unintentional child injuries occur on or around school grounds.
As parents, we have an innate desire to protect our children from harm and, and we do everything in our power to shield our children from danger – but, who is responsible for your child’s safety when he or she is at school? And if a serious accident occurs, who should be held accountable?
The answers to these questions are not necessarily as simple as they should be.
A Question of Negligence
Generally, schools are expected to take reasonable measure to provide a safe environment for their students. This includes:
- Preventing harm caused by other students, teachers, or staff.
- Ensuring that there are no known structural problems with the school building or ground.
- Not allowing any person to enter the building without permission.
This does not mean, however, that schools are insurers of a student’s safety. If, for example, a child should fall while running down a flight of stairs, the school would not likely be liable as the incident was caused by the child’s actions.
Instead, whether a school is held accountable for a child’s injury normally comes down to a question of negligence. Did the school or a school official breach their duty of care to a student by creating an unsafe environment or by failing to address a known, unsafe situation or condition?
Common Examples of Negligence by a School
If a child is injured while at school or on school grounds, the school may be held accountable if:
- School officials were aware of bullying incidents, but did nothing to stop or prevent them.
- Necessary medication was not given to a student, or medication was not administered properly.
- Cafeteria personnel failed to properly cook lunch items or served food that was not fit for human consumption.
- A school was aware of damaged walls, stairs, or playground equipment, but did not make the necessary repairs.
- A school failed to enact adequate evacuation plans or ensure that fire alarms were working properly.
- School personnel ignored security policies, or did not notice a stranger entering the school without permission.
- A child suffered injury could have been prevented had the child been under proper supervision.
Who Is Accountable for My Child’s Injury?
Most often, we see a school as a single entity, a building all under singular supervision. In truth, however, it takes multiple parties to build and run a school.
There are outside contractors responsible for the building and maintenance of the building, contractors responsible for barriers like fences, third parties who provide janitorial services and food.
This means that if you child was injured on playground equipment while at recess, the manufacturer of the equipment may be liable, not the school. If your child slips on a recently mopped floor that was not properly marked by janitor, your claim may need to be filed against an outside contractor instead of the school district.
It is because issues like these that injuries suffered children in school settings are so complex. Such instances should not be taken lightly and should be addressed immediately.