Can I sue the school if my child was injured because of inadequate security?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Jun 20, 2018 | 0 Comments

Students who are injured due to inadequate school security can often sue the school and/or the school district in California. This includes lawsuits for injuries caused by acts of violence.

Under California law, schools stand in a “special relationship” to students. This special relationship requires the school to protect students from foreseeable injuries.

Schools must use “reasonable measures” to protect students from foreseeable injuries. This duty applies while students are in class or engaging in other official school activities (such as sports or field trips).

How much security must a California school provide?

The level of security a school needs to provide is not defined by law. It is a question of fact for the jury to decide based on the circumstances. Issues the jury will decide will include:

  1. Was the injury to the student “foreseeable”? and
  2. If so, did the school take reasonable measures to prevent such injury?

Whether this involves hiring a security guard would be a question for the jury. The answer might depend on whether the costs of doing so were reasonable in light of:

  • The likelihood of foreseeable harm,
  • The finances of the school district,
  • The availability of alternative methods of security, etc.

Does a school have a duty to protect students from violence?

Schools must take reasonable steps to protect students from foreseeable acts of violence.

In a recent case, the California Supreme Court considered whether a college could be liable for a violent act by one student against another. In that case -- Regents of University of California v. Rosen – the court concluded that California colleges can be held liable when they fail to protect students from foreseeable acts of violence.

The court noted that:

“Even a comparatively rare classroom attack is a foreseeable occurrence that colleges have been equipping themselves to address for at least the past decade.”

In the light of recent school shootings (such as those at Sandy Hook and Parkland), this should apply even more strongly to K-12 schools. Schools that primarily teach children under 18 have an even greater duty toward students than colleges (at which most students are legally adults).

And sadly, schools are on notice these days of the potential for violence against students.

Public K-12 schools must have a comprehensive security plan

Public school districts offering K-12 instruction in California must by law have a comprehensive school safety plan.

Failure to have a comprehensive plan to deal with violence may constitute “negligence per se” under California law.

So a public school or school district without an adequate safety plan would be liable for any harm caused by the failure to have such a plan.

Call us for help...

For more information, you may wish to read our article on California’s “premises liability” laws.

Or, if your child was injured at school, call us at 855-LAWFIRM for a free consultation with an experienced California personal injury lawyer.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


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