A Teacher Plays Hooky

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Q: Both my son Timmy and his friend Ed were participants in their high school’s science-research program.  One day, after regular school hours, Ed said, “I’m goin’ to the lab to work on my project.  Teach is waiting for me.  Wanna keep me company?”  Teach let them in.  No one else was present.

Ed began to work on his project, under the flow hood.  At Teach’s suggestion, Timmy began to make himself useful and clean up the room.  Soon, Teach walked off to the deli, for a few minutes, to get something to eat.

After a while, Ed emerged from the flow hood, carrying a wire that he liked to play with, and began to clean his hands and table with ethyl alcohol.  He picked up a spark lighter.  Ed suffers from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and even takes medication for it.  He struck the spark lighter.

A: Doubtless the school district will contend that Ed’s activation of the spark lighter occurred so quickly that, even if present, Teach could not have prevented this horrible conflagration.  Your attorney will counter that Ed’s dangerous conduct commenced even before that – with his use of the ethyl alcohol.

The law is that a school and its teachers owe to their charges the duty to exercise such care as a parent of ordinary prudence would observe in comparable circumstances.  The duty derives from the simple fact that a school, in assuming physical custody and control over its students, effectively takes the place of parents and guardians.  Even though a slightly-relaxed standard may occasionally be applicable in the context of extracurricular activities, that wee exception cannot apply here; this explosion occurred in a classroom.

Sounds like you are prima facie entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the issue of liability.  The school’s failure was a proximate cause of the tragedy.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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