Legal cases that feature malpractice at the center of the issue aren’t uncommon. Whether it’s attorney negligence, medical malpractice from a doctor, or even negligence from an accountant during tax season, people are prone to making mistakes in their services. But can educators be held to the same standard?
If an educator or an entire school is known for providing substandard education, can parents bring a suit of malpractice against them? Or what if someone paid a lot of money or took out a lot of loans to pay for a for-profit college, do they have a case? The idea of suing a school or school board over negligence/malpractice in the classroom is something that’s gaining traction. But it’s important to understand just how realistic winning a case like this is.
The term malpractice points to a bad practice of the service offered, in this case, a solid education. People have tried to sue schools in the past on the terms of professional negligence related to legal or medical malpractice. But in order for the law to be on the side of the person suing the school, they must prove that the school or teacher(s) in question owed them a duty of care, or obligation to provide services that meet reasonable standards, the negligence caused them harm in some capacity, and that they suffered losses or damages.
Plaintiffs usually argue that schools breach their duty to provide them with an adequate and effective education, but schools and educators may argue that this is interpretive. Another point plaintiffs try to make is that officials misled students into believing that their skills were at the right grade level or that schools failed to properly test schoolchildren.
Courts that have seen cases of educational malpractice have a number of reasons why they reject lawsuits based on educational malpractice. It’s difficult to outline a standard of care for providing an adequate and sufficient education. In theory, it can be nearly impossible to prove that an educator or an entire school or university was responsible in some capacity for a student’s educational mishaps. The reason being that there are plenty of other potential factors that may play a role in the greater scheme of things.
Courts have shown a concern that lawsuits like these can put schools, universities, and educators in a tough position, especially if that school is limited in its funding. Schools that are short on resources can’t be dipping into their pockets on a regular basis to pay out damages or even pay for legal representation, even if a case is thrown out. That’s one reason why educators liability insurance is a helpful addition to a school’s budget, protecting them and their educators just in case a suit is brought up.
Even if a lawsuit against a school doesn’t explicitly use the terminology of educational malpractice, instead putting the focus on specific points of conduct from the instructors, courts have usually stayed away from throwing blame on attempts to hold schools legally responsible for claims of inadequate education.
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