School Bullying - Who Do You Blame?

Posted on: 22 May 2015

When you send your child to school, you assume they will return home in the same physical condition they left home in. Unfortunately, that does not always happen. Bullying, and school fights can put your child at risk of physical, as well as mental harm. Who do you blame? Is it the school's responsibility for failing to keep your child safe when he or she is in their care? Does the fault lay with the aggressor, and maybe even their parents? This is a question that your personal injury attorney will help you answer if your child has been injured by this type of action when they are at school.

The School's Legal Duty Of Care

The legal term in loco parentis, istranslated as in the place of a parent. When your children are at school, schools have a legal responsibility to take on the role of parents, especially in the areas of supervision and discipline. This means that they must do everything within reason to not only protect your child from harm, but to anticipate potential and foreseeable dangers.

When the school fails to do so, you may have a case for negligence against the school under tort law. To show that the school has failed, you must be able to show or answer the following:

  • That the school had a duty to protect your child in this particular situation.
  • That there was a reasonable standard of care applied.
  • Was this breach in the standard a contributing factor?
  • Did your child contribute to the injury due to his or her negligence?
  • Were there other variables that may have prevented the cause of the injury?

The law can become very complicated. Your personal injury attorney will help you to determine whether the violation of the tort is solely the responsibility of one or more teachers, or if the system on a whole was responsible.

The Parents Also May Play A Role

If your child has been injured by another child, their parents may also be held responsible even though they were not present when the attack occurred. This is referred to as parental liability, and in most states this covers children who are under the age of majority. In most states this is 18 if they are involved in civil cases, and 17 if they are involved in criminal cases. In Nebraska and Alabama this liability extends until the child is 19, and in Mississippi and Washington, it can extend until the child is 21. 

To sue a parent for the injuries that were caused by their child, the court may require you to show that the parents knew that their child's actions were reasonable and foreseeable.

  • For an action to be considered reasonable, you must be able to show that the parents should have known that their child was going to act in a dangerous manner. The court may require you to prove that in a similar situation, any other parent would have known that their child presented a danger. 
  • For an action to be foreseeable, you must be able to show that the parents should have been able to anticipate that their child's actions could have possibly posed a risk of injury.  

An example of a reasonable action would be if a parent had knowledge of texts or Facebook posts in which their child had threatened your child with bodily harm. This would give the parents the knowledge that their child was going to act in a dangerous manner. The action would be foreseeable, if the parents knew that their child had been involved in fights in the past, and had the possibility of causing your child injury.

What Damages Can You Recover?

No matter if you decide to file suit against the school or the parents, there are a few of the specific damages that you should be able to recover. Each case varies and you may be able to recover more or less depending on the circumstances of your case. These include:

  • Any and all medical and dental costs that your child has incurred
  • Lost wages if either you or your child have missed time from work
  • Pain and suffering for your child for all that they have been through; although this has been a traumatic experience for you, most courts will not award pain and suffering to the parent.

Speak with a personal injury attorney. They will be able to evaluate your case, and give you specific advice on exactly how to proceed.

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