What is the school's liability for a dangerous student?

by Anonymous
(California)

A student has put his hands around another student's neck multiple times now. Note that this is occurring at a private school where the student is a 6th grader. He is fairly small. The first time he put his hands around a classmate's neck, he was seen by a teacher, and told "You can't put your hands around someone's neck." It was a minor incident.

The second incident, he put his hand around a classmate's neck and squeezed (this was also witnessed by a teacher). He was suspended. The third time (today) he put his hands around a classmate's neck and held on longer, truly scaring the victim (it was in the hallway and not seen by a teacher). I assume he will again be suspended (but not expelled).

My question revolves around school liability. Given the foreseeability of a potential fourth incident, if this student puts his hands around someone's neck again, what would have to occur for the school to face liability? How does liability work in a situation like this? Thank you for any perspective you can give.

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ANSWER for "What is the school's liability for a dangerous student?":

Anonymous (California):

A school district has a legal duty to do everything reasonably possible to assure the safety of its students. Included in that legal duty is the protection of its students.

From the facts you present, it is clear the school, through its principal, and/or teachers knew the boy was a danger to other classmates. It also seems clear the school has so far done what it believes to be fair to stop the student from continued acts of aggression.

The questions remains, what will happen if the student is allowed to once again be among other students, and the student in question injures another student, whether by choking or in another purposefully aggressive manner?

If that occurs, the school district may be liable for the injuries caused by the student. Moreover, the parents of the child may also be held liable, as they too knew about the student's propensity for violence and were unable to control or eliminate it. The liability issue is likely to be quite nuanced if a serious injury were to take place.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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Thank you for the reply
by: Anonymous

Thank you, much appreciated. The school in question is a private school; I wonder if/how that changes things.

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