Lawsuits for Teacher Misconduct or Negligence in Nevada

In Nevada, students can bring lawsuits for teacher misconduct when the student is harmed because of the teacher's negligence, or an intentional wrongful act such as sexual harassment or physical abuse.

Schools and school districts are generally not liable for the intentional wrongful acts of teachers. However, they may be liable if they negligently hired, retained, trained or supervised the teacher.

They are also liable under Nevada's doctrine of respondeat superior for acts of negligence committed within the normal scope of the teacher's employment.

Example: The principal of Dileep's junior high school buys the science teacher chemicals to burn in a classroom demonstration. One of these is methanol.
The principal does not offer the teacher any training on how to use it. When the teacher burns the methanol to create a “green-flamed fire tornado,” Dileep is burned.
The teacher is negligent. And because demonstrating science is his job, the school district can be held vicariously liable. The school is also directly liable for its negligence in failing to train the teacher.

To help you better understand when you a student or parents can bring a lawsuit for teacher misconduct, our Las Vegas Nevada personal injury lawyers discuss, below:

You may also wish to review our article “Who is liable for injuries in a Nevada school?”

male teacher bending over desk at which a young male student is seated

1. What constitutes teacher misconduct?

Teacher misconduct in Nevada consists of two types of wrongful actions:

  • Negligence, or
  • Intentional wrongful conduct.

Common grounds for a teacher negligence lawsuit schools include:

  • Inadequate supervision on the playground,
  • Slip-and-fall injuries due to poorly maintained classrooms,
  • Failure to summon medical help for a student, when needed, or
  • Failure to promptly break up fights between students.

Common intentionally wrongful acts of teachers include:

  • Sexual assault or harassment,
  • Physical abuse, or
  • Discrimination based on gender, gender identity or sexual orientation.

2. How does Nevada law define teacher negligence?

In Nevada, a teacher is negligent when:

  1. The teacher owes a duty of care to a student;
  2. The teacher breaches that duty;
  3. The breach is the legal cause of the student's injuries; and
  4. Because of those injuries, the student suffers damages.1

The standard of care a teacher will be held to is that degree of care which an ordinarily careful and prudent teacher would exercise under the same or similar circumstances.2

A teacher is also liable for negligence under Nevada's "negligence per se" law if he or she violates a law meant to protect students or members of the public generally.

For instance, NRS 392.4633 makes it unlawful to administer corporal punishment upon a pupil in any public school. So a Clark County School District teacher who uses corporal punishment against a student would automatically be liable for any damages sustained by the student as a result. 

adult hand moving toward thigh of a child in shorts

3. What is a teacher's duty of care toward a student?

Teachers have a legal duty under Nevada law to protect their students. This duty of care toward students arises under the legal doctrine of in loco parentis. In loco parentis is a Latin phrase meaning “in the place of the parents.”3

A teacher's duty of care includes, without limitation, the duty to:

  • Anticipate foreseeable dangers to students and take steps to minimize those dangers;
  • Supervise students;
  • Ensure student safety; and
  • Obey all laws, including those respecting minor children. 

If the teacher fails to do any of these things and, as a result, a student is injured, the teacher is liable for the damages.4

Example: Billy begins feeling ill while playing baseball on a hot day at his Las Vegas elementary school. Although he complains to his teacher of headache and nausea, the teacher does nothing until Billy passes out in class an hour later. By the time the teacher notifies anyone, Billy has suffered a brain injury from heatstroke. The injury could have been prevented had the teacher taken simple steps to cool Billy down (such as getting him indoors and misting him with cool water).5

4. Liability for intentional wrongful acts by Nevada teachers

Most headline-making cases of teacher misconduct in Nevada occur when a teacher is accused of intentionally harming a student or violating a student's rights.

Common intentional torts against students include (but are not limited to):

Example: Cara is a special needs student who is prone to temper tantrums. Mr. Marks is her instructor. One day, Cara refuses to line up with the other students to go to a mandatory assembly. Mr. Marks yells at Cara repeatedly to get in a line, using derogatory language. When she still refuses to obey, he grabs her roughly by the arms and forces her into the line, where he continues to yell at her to keep moving.
A Clark County jury finds that Mr. Marks liable for a violation of Nevada's assault and battery laws, intentional infliction of emotional distress and false imprisonment. He is ordered to pay damages to Cara for her emotional distress and her pain and suffering.

4.1. Sexual Harassment of a student by a teacher

Sexual harassment is a form of illegal discrimination under both federal and Nevada law.

Schools that receive federal funding of any kind, whether they are public or private, are subject to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX prohibits any form of sexual harassment or discrimination based on gender, gender identity or sexual orientation.

Additionally, Nevada law makes sexual harassment as schools a violation of both law and public policy. 6  

Section 284.0995 of the Nevada Administrative Code defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other speech or physical conduct of a sexual nature.

Students can report sexual harassment or other discrimination by teachers to the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights. They also have the right to sue the teacher for damages.

5. When can a student or parent sue a Nevada school district for teacher misconduct?

A school district is ordinarily not liable for:

  • Negligence committed by teachers in their off hours, or
  • Intentional torts committed by teachers.

However, a school district may have joint and several (shared) liability in Nevada for teacher misconduct when:

  • The school district negligently hired, retained or trained the teacher, or
  • The teacher's negligence occurred while the teacher was carrying out his or her official duties as a teacher

Let's take a closer look at each of these situations.

5.1. Vicarious (indirect) liability for teacher misconduct in Nevada

A school district in Nevada is indirectly (vicariously) liable for the wrongful acts or omissions of its teachers when:

  1. The teacher is acting within the ordinary scope of his or her employment, and
  2. As the result of the teacher's wrongful actions, a student is injured.
Example: Albert is on his Las Vegas high school's swim team. One day before a meet, he tells his P.E. teacher/coach he is feeling dizzy and light-headed. The coach, not realizing how sick Albert is, tells Albert to “suck it up.” During the meet, Albert suffers a drowning accident which leaves him with permanently disabled.
If the coach is found negligent, the school district can be held liable because supervising the school's swim team falls within the scope of his employment and drowning is an inherent risk of swimming. The district might have to pay the costs of Albert's medical bills, rehabilitation and long-term care, plus damages for lost earning capacity and pain and suffering.

5.2. Negligent hiring, retention or supervision of teachers

Normally, a school district is not responsible for intentional torts committed by teachers. This is because intentional torts do not fall within a teacher's ordinary scope of employment.

Example: Josephine, a 14-year old, accuses her teacher of fondling her breasts in violation of NRS 201.230, Nevada's law against lewd acts with a child under 16. If the teacher is found guilty, the school district would not normally be liable, because fondling children does not fall within the ordinary scope of a teacher's employment.

However, under certain circumstances, a school district may be directly liable under Nevada's law on respondeat superior for its own negligence in hiring, retaining or supervising the teacher. The law applies when:

  • The school failed to conduct a reasonable background check to ensure that the teacher was fit for the position,
  • The school hired the teacher even though it knew, or should have known, that the teacher had dangerous propensities,
  • The school retained a teacher after it learned a teacher was dangerous, or
  • The school failed adequately to supervise, train or discipline the teacher in duties that could potentially harm students.
Example: Let's say that in the above example, the school district had already received several complaints of inappropriate touching of students by Josephine's teacher. The school district was on notice that the teacher was potentially dangerous to children. By retaining the teacher and not taking steps to prevent future harm (such as requiring a teacher's aide to be present with the teacher at all times), the district may be liable for the teacher's fondling of Josephine.

6. What damages can I get for teacher misconduct?

judge's gavel on pile of money

If your child was injured by teacher misconduct, he or she may be entitled to compensation for:

  • Medical bills,
  • Physical rehabilitation,
  • Pain and suffering, and
  • Emotional distress.

In cases of serious intentional acts, your child may even be entitled to punitive damages for teacher misconduct in Nevada.

7. Can I settle a claim for teacher misconduct on my child's behalf?

If your child is under the age of 18, you are legally permitted to settle (compromise) his or her claim out-of-court. However, the settlement must be approved by the district court before it is legally binding.

For more information on how to do this, please see our article on "Compromise of a Minor's Claim in Nevada"

Was your child a victim of teacher misconduct in Las Vegas? Call us for help…

If your child was injured by a school teacher in Las Vegas, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation.

You or your child may be entitled to compensation under Nevada and/or federal law.

To schedule your free consultation call us at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) or complete the form on this page. You may be surprised at how we can help your child get the compensation and justice he or she deserves.

Legal references:

  1. Turner v. Mandaly Sports Entm't, LLC, 124 Nev. 213, 180 P.3d 1172 (2008); Scialabba v. Brandise Construction Co., 921 P.2d 928 (1996); Perez v. Las Vegas Med. Ctr., 107 Nev. 1, 4, 805 P.2d 589 (1991); Nevada Jury Instructions 4.02.
  2. NEV. J.I. 4.03; BAJI 3.10.
  3. NRS 289.190.
  4. NEV. J.I. 4.04 BAJI: 3.75.
  5. See, e.g., Mayo Clinic - Heatstroke.
  6. NAC 284.771.

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