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Q: During the school year, in the second grade, the other boys had been teasing me.  My mother had complained to the principal that they were bullying me, although she never gave names.

One morning, I told my teacher that Billy was picking on me and calling me names.  At the end of the school day, when we were lining up to go home, Billy and I exchanged words, and he pushed me into a desk.  I pushed back, and Billy pushed me again, causing me to fall back into a bookcase and strike my head against it.

The school principal says that she had never received any complaints that Billy had acted violently or had been involved in physical altercations or engaged in improper touching or hitting – and that no prior incidents involving Billy can be found in the Department of Education’s database.

A: Schools have a duty to adequately supervise their students, and are held liable for foreseeable injuries proximately related to the absence of adequate supervision.  Nevertheless, unanticipated third-party acts causing injury upon a fellow student generally do not give rise to a school’s liability in negligence – absent actual or constructive notice of prior similar conduct.

To succeed, you need evidence of notice that Billy had a proclivity to engage in physically aggressive conduct.  Mere evidence of complaints that Billy was calling you names, and reports that unidentified boys were picking on you, shows no more than that the school knew that Billy had been picking on you verbally.  However, knowledge of such taunting does not give the school sufficiently specific knowledge of similar prior conduct.

Moreover, schools are not insurers of safety and cannot reasonably be expected to continuously supervise and control all movements and activities of students.  To succeed, you will also need to show proximate causation – that a reasonable greater level of supervision would have prevented this sudden and spontaneous altercation.

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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