If your child is injured at a Nevada school, you may be able to bring a lawsuit against the school or school district. Damages that can be recovered in a lawsuit against a Nevada school district can include payment for medical bills as well as damages for pain and suffering.
Common causes of lawsuits against Nevada school districts include (without limitation):
- Teacher misconduct,
- Violations of Nevada premises liability laws,
- Failure to provide adequate security or medical assistance,
- Food poisoning,
- Bus accidents,
- Broken equipment, or
- Intentional acts such as bullying or sexual harassment by a teacher or other students.
To help you better understand lawsuits against Nevada schools, our Nevada personal injury lawyers discuss:
- 1. Are schools in Nevada liable for teacher or employee negligence?
- 2. When are schools liable for an employee’s intentional wrongful acts?
- 3. What duty of care is owed by a Nevada school?
- 4. What are violations of a student’s constitutional or statutory rights?
- 5. What is Title IX discrimination in Nevada schools?
- 6. What damages can I recover in a lawsuit against a Nevada school?
Under Nevada’s respondeat superior law, schools and school districts are liable for the negligent acts of employees within the scope of their employment.
A Nevada school employee is acting within the scope of their employment if:
- What they were doing occurred during business hours, and
- The actions were part of the employee’s regular job function.
Example: Mr. Masters is a science teacher at a high school within the Clark County public school district. While demonstrating a routine chemical reaction for his class, Mr. Masters accidentally uses the wrong chemical. The chemical explodes, burning several students. The school is liable because:
- Demonstrating scientific principles falls within Mr. Masters scope of employment, and
- Mr. Masters conducted the science experiment negligently.
State governments generally have the right to claim “sovereign immunity” from lawsuits. This means that a state — including its public school districts and universities — can only be sued if it consents.
NRS 41.032 is Nevada’s waiver of sovereign immunity law. Under NRS 41.032, Nevada consents to be sued by its citizens for the negligence of its employees.
Public universities covered by Nevada’s sovereign immunity waiver include (without limitation):
- University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) (see our related article on suing UNLV for personal injury),
- Nevada State College, and
- College of Southern Nevada.
Public school districts in Nevada include (without limitation):
- Clark County School District, and
- Washoe County School District.
For a more complete listing of Nevada public schools and school districts, see the Nevada Department of Education, Nevada Schools and Districts Information.
As a condition of Nevada’s sovereign immunity waiver, there is a $100,000 cap on damages for negligent acts by public employees. Additionally, victims of school employee negligence cannot recover punitive damages in Nevada.1
If the school is private, however, these limitations on damages do not apply.
Just as importantly, there is no cap on damages in the case of intentional wrongful acts by school employees. There is also no limit to the amount of punitive damages that can be recovered for intentional wrongs.
Thus headline-making lawsuits against Nevada schools and school districts usually allege an
- intentional act in addition to or instead of
However, as discussed below, there are limitations on when a school can be held responsible for an employee’s intentional wrongdoing.
Nevada schools are generally NOT liable for the intentional wrongful acts of their employees.
However, a Las Vegas school district is liable for an employee’s intentional acts if the school itself was negligent in hiring, retaining or supervising the employee.
A school or district commits negligent hiring, retention or supervision when:
- The school fails to conduct a reasonable background check of an employee;
- The school retains an employee after discovering the person is potentially unfit or dangerous;
- The school fails to train its employees how to prevent or deal with injuries; or
- The school fails to discipline or adequately supervise its employees.
Example: Several female students at a Clark County middle school have complained about sexual harassment by their history teacher, Mr. Cole. The school speaks to Mr. Cole, but otherwise does nothing to reprimand him or to protect the students. Mr. Cole is later convicted of several acts of lewdness with a Child under 16 (NRS 201.230).
If the students decide to sue for the lewd acts, the school district should be held liable. The school was on notice that Mr. Cole posed a danger to students. By retaining him as a teacher, the school itself was negligent.
Common lawsuits for intentional torts at Las Vegas schools include (but are not limited to):
- Sexual harassment or sexual assault by teachers,
- Bullying by teachers or school personnel,
- Failure to prevent bullying or harassment by other students,
- Corporal punishment in violation of Nevada’s assault and battery laws,
- Discrimination based on gender, gender identity or sexual identity in violation of Title IX (discussed below), and
- Intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Property owners in Nevada have a duty to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition. At a school, this encompasses all property owned or used by the school, including (without limitation):
- Parking lots,
- Gyms, swimming pools and stadiums, and
Schools in Las Vegas face lawsuits for accidents when an employee’s negligence results in:
- Slip-and-fall injuries,
- Food poisoning,
- Drowning accidents,
- Preventable sports injuries (including traumatic brain injury)
- Injuries from broken furniture, playground or gym equipment,
- Bus accidents during school sporting events or field trips, or
- Any other reasonably foreseeable injury.
Nevada schools have a special legal duty under Nevada law to protect students as their own children. This duty of care arises under Nevada’s legal doctrine of in loco parentis (meaning “in the place of the parents”).
A Nevada school’s special duty of care to your children includes (without limitation) the obligation to:
- Supervise students;
- Minimize foreseeable dangers to them;
- Ensure their safety;
- Prevent bullying; and
- Obey all Nevada laws and regulations, including those respecting minor children.
Lawsuits against Nevada school districts can also arise when a school violates your child’s constitutional right, such as:
- free speech,
- free exercise of religion, or
- freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.
Mandatory dress policies are legally enforceable in Nevada schools as long as:
- They are viewpoint- and content-neutral,
- They advance important interests unrelated to the suppression of free speech, and
- They impose as minimal a restriction as possible on your child’s free expression.2
Example: A Las Vegas middle school’s dress code bans the wearing of shirts that show the midriff. The ban is most likely legal since it is gender neutral and advances the school’s policy of preventing sexual assault and harassment.
On the other hand, a ban against boys wearing make-up would not be enforceable. Such a ban would not be gender neutral and would impose an unreasonable restriction on male students’ free expression.
Schools may also not require your children to engage in or promote speech they or you find offensive. For example, Nevada schools may not require your child to:
- Wear a uniform containing a school motto.3
- Say the pledge of allegiance or salute the flag.4
Schools in Las Vegas may not require your child to submit to searches of their person or property unless:
- The school has reasonable grounds for suspecting that the search will turn up evidence of a violation of law or school rules;
- The search is reasonably related to the circumstances justifying the interference; and
- The search is appropriate in light of the age and sex of your child and the nature of the infraction.5
For instance, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld as reasonable the search of the purse of a student who was accused of smoking in the bathroom.6
But requiring a student accused of drug possession to remove her clothes down to her underwear, and then pull out the bands on her bra and underpants constituted an unreasonable strip search by the school.7
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination based on sex in educational programs. It applies to all schools that receive federal funds for any purpose.
Wrongful acts prohibited by Title IX include (without limitation):
- Sexual assault by teachers;
- Sexual harassment by teachers;
- Discrimination based on gender;
- Discrimination in schools based on transgender status or gender identity; or
- Discrimination in schools based on sexual orientation.
To maintain an action for damages under Title IX, a student must prove that:
- A school policy violated Title IX, or
- An official of the school district with authority to institute corrective measures on the district’s behalf:
- Knew of a teacher’s misconduct,
- Had the power to end it, and
- Failed to do so.
If you or a child has been injured through a school’s negligence or intentional tort, you may be entitled to receive compensation for:
- Payment of medical bills and therapy,
- Lost earning capacity,
- Pain and suffering, and
- Other compensatory damages.
Additionally, if the act was intentional, you may be entitled to recover additional compensation under Nevada’s law on punitive damages.
- NRS 41.035; See also County of Clark ex rel. University. Medical Center v. Upchurch, 114 Nev. 749, 961 P.2d 754 (1998) (“Large jury awards could present a threat to the state treasury. A statutory cap on the damages the state must pay for its tortious conduct furthers a legitimate interest in protecting the state treasury.”).
- Jacobs v. Clark County School District 373 F.Supp.2d 1162 (2008).
- Frudden v. Pilling 526 F.3d 419 (9th Cir. 2014).
- West Virginia State Board Of Education v. Barnette 319 U.S. 624 (1943).
- New Jersey v. T.L.O. 469 US 325 (1985).
- Safford Unified School District v. Redding 557 US 364 (2009).