In recent years, the topic of school safety has come up more than in years past. From bullying on campus to bullying over the Internet and social media to violent attacks on students from their peers, school violence in form or another has taken on a new meaning. One question parents, students and community members are asking due to the changing environment of school violence is who’s being held responsible?
According to a court ruling earlier this year, California high courts put the responsibility on colleges to supply their students with safety and protection from foreseeable violence in the classroom. This was a reversal in an appeals court’s finding that University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) did not have a duty to provide protection to a student who was assaulted with a knife by a classmate.
Here are some things for public schools and universities to consider when it comes to campus violence and various violent acts between students.
Schools have the responsibility to keep a safe environment for all students. Officials at schools act in the place of parents or guardians when students are in their care. Schools are liable when it comes to preventing foreseeable dangers, as mentioned above, to keep students from being harmed. Dangerous conditions on school premises can come in the form of unsafe playground equipment, slippery floors, unsanitary conditions in the cafeteria, mold or frayed electrical wiring throughout classrooms.
Like the case in California, in which the university in Los Angeles was held liable for the safety of the student who was stabbed by a peer, schools must take reasonable steps to keep students from harming each other. Schools can ensure keep a safe and accountable environment by hiring the right amount of staff to supervise the students on school premises. From teachers to administrators, recess monitors to bus drivers, there are many different employee roles that can all help to keep an eye on school safety.
School responsibility for protecting against injuries on campus is called premises liability. In this case, the person or persons in charge of having the property under control is accountable for certain injuries. The person being sued must be in control of the property where the injury occured. In school liability cases, the school district has the authority over school grounds as a whole. Also, the person in charge of the premises must have been negligent in some way. This typically means that the defendant knew or should have known in some way that they needed to protect the people on school grounds.
It can’t be stressed enough, but the importance of foreseeability plays a major role in responsibility for schools. Negligence on the part of the school is most apparent in cases where the school had knowledge of a specific danger, even in the slightest, but failed to act with precautionary measures. Whether it’s mold in the ceiling, structurally unsound monkey bars or a school bully who was known to go around hurting other kids, school’s have the responsibility to make the right move to make sure no one else is hurt in any way.
In the past, public schools have been granted immunity by state laws in injury suits because courts considered schools to be performing a governmental role. This has obviously changed as many states have changed course, making immunity a varied topic depending on the state.
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