Ohio School Bullying Lawsuit Heads to Supreme Court
The Ohio Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case concerning whether educators at DeVeaux Elementary School are responsible for an injury suffered by one of their students. A kindergartner was injured after another student stabbed her in the face with a pencil. According to the lawsuit, teachers and administration were made aware that the girl was being bullied by fellow classmates. It’s unclear what measures (if any) they took to resolve the situation.
The parents filed a lawsuit against two teachers, the principal, and the school district, but a district court determined that the school employees were protected by statutory immunity. An appeals court resurrected the case and ruled 2-1 that it should be allowed to go forward. The Supreme Court will have the final say on whether or not the parents are allowed to pursue a lawsuit.
The main question that they will have to answer is: Can teachers and school staff be held liable for student on student violence?
Looking at the Law
Let’s pretend for a second that this is not a school situation and that instead, one patron was assaulted and stabbed in a bar. The injured patron could file a lawsuit against the bar under the theory of negligent security. They would need to prove that the bar had foreknowledge that other violence had occurred and then failed to adequately protect their patrons from future violence. If the bar took no remedial action, they could be held liable under the legal theory of negligent security.
In this case, Ohio State law prevents educators from being held liable unless they acted maliciously or recklessly. The lower court opinion held that the conduct and inaction of the teachers did not rise to the standard of malicious or reckless, but the appeals court said there was enough evidence to allow the case to proceed. The parents provided evidence of ongoing physical and verbal abuse of the victim by one other girl who chronically harassed her. No attempts were made by the teachers to keep the two apart, however.
Attorneys for the teachers say that even diligent educators could be held liable if the case is allowed to move forward. They argue that any time there is teasing before a physical altercation ensues, teachers could be held liable for the violence. On the other hand, this is the same risk every proprietor runs when they invite people onto their property to have a drink or eat. If the Supreme Court of Ohio decides that teachers can never be held liable, even in cases where their negligence is gross, then the State of Ohio will be holding schools to a lower standard than they do bars.
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If you’re injured by someone else’s negligence, the Miami personal injury attorneys at the office of Alan Goldfarb, P.A. can help you recover damages related to your injuries. Talk to us today for a free consultation.