Visitor Question

Can you sue a private school for costs related to emotional distress?

Submitted By: Kerrie (Phoenix, AZ)

Our first grade child attends a private school in Arizona since last fall. We noticed over the months that she was having some resistance towards attending school. In December she had several episodes of what appeared to be severe abdominal pain with screaming.

She has been to the ER twice, to her pediatrician’s office twice, had lab work done, extensive imaging and a visit to a GI doctor with a negative workup.

We have come to realize that she is suffering extreme anxiety due to a militant music teacher who uses a “naughty” infraction book to hand out to kids who refuse to sing and dance or “do not pay attention”.

We are now forced to remove her from this school and find another school in the middle of the year. She has nightmares every night and we now have to sleep with her. She is losing weight, no longer eating meals, appears depressed and will likely need a psychiatrist.

We have lost thousands of dollars in medical bills and loss of work, and we fear she has been psychologically damaged for life due to the militant teacher. The school administration was aware of this teacher’s methods for controlling his classroom.

We at the very least want to sue them to pay back the private tuition for the year, the cost of medical bills, our loss of income, and be reimbursed for the registration fees we paid last month for the upcoming school year. Is this possible?

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.


Dear Kerrie,

You can certainly sue the school. Whether you will be successful will depend on several factors…

You will first have to establish the teacher’s militancy was the direct and proximate cause of your daughter’s psychiatric problems. This will require one or more psychiatrists to verify the causal relationship.

Another challenge will be comparing your daughter’s problems to other children who have been taught by the same teacher. If the teacher has been teaching for any length of time and no other students have suffered the same psychiatric problems it will be all the more difficult to isolate and connect your daughter’s problems to the teacher.

If you do sue the school and allege the teacher’s influence on your child was the cause of your daughter’s problems, it is likely your parenting skills will become the focus of the school’s defense. This will be an unfortunate but realistic result of alleging someone else caused your daughter’s psychiatric problems. It is likely you and your husband will be placed under a microscope.

You might want to visit with an attorney to see if she shares our observations. It is likely she will.

Learn more here: Claims for School Injuries & Accidents

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney.

Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call 888-972-0892.

We wish you the best with your claim,


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