A national study released Tuesday says that half of high school students say they’ve bullied someone in the past year, and nearly half say they’ve been the victim of bullying.
The survey by the Los Angeles-based Josephson Institute of Ethics asked more than 43,000 high school students whether they’d been physically abused, teased or taunted in a way that seriously upset them. Forty-three percent said yes, and 50 percent admitted to being the bully.
The institute’s president, Michael Josephson, said the study shows more bullying goes on at later ages than previously thought, and it remains extremely prevalent through high school.
Unfortunately, both physical and sexual assaults of students, by other students while at school is on the rise. While the schoolyard bully is not a new invention, there is a point were such bullying gives rise to liability, not only on the part of the assaulter and his or her parents, but also on the part of school officials, including the school district, and supervising teachers. The same holds true for sexual assaults.
When we send our kids off to school it’s with the understanding that the school will keep our children safe throughout the school day. In fact there are a many requirements set forth in the California Education Code and the California Code of Regulations that, if not met, can give rise to liability on the part of school district employees.
Education Code section 44807 says: “[e]very teacher in the public
schools shall hold pupils to a strict account for their conduct on the way to and from school, on the playgrounds, or during recess.” Yet it is not uncommon for kids to say my teacher knew and did nothing.
Also, section 5552 says, “[w]here playground supervision is not otherwise provided, the principal of each school shall provide for the supervision by certificated employees of the conduct and safety . . . of the pupils of the school who are on the school grounds during recess and other intermissions.” In addition, Government Code section 820 provides that “a public employee is liable for injury caused by his act or omission to the same extent as a private person.” However, many schools have either no supervision on the playground, in the lunchroom and other open areas or such a high student to supervisor ratio it would be impossible to ensure the safety of all students.
California Code of Regulations, title 5, §5551 and 5552 requires the school
district and its administrators, such as the principal of a school, to staff common areas, including playgrounds with competent, adequately trained staff. Moreover, school administrators have a continuing duty to supervise such staff members to ensure that they were competently performing their sole job which protecting the children from harm. It is not sufficient for the school to have a host of rules pertaining to safety and supervision. The school administrator must ensure that such rules are being followed by
school employees and that such employees have the requisite knowledge and training to execute the rules.
So, is the school liable for injuries sustained as a result of physical and sexual assault on school property? The best answer is possibly; there could be direct liability of school district employees such as teachers, hall monitors and school administrators and vicarious liability for the school district. The majority of such cases hinge on what the school personnel did; what they should have done; and what they failed to do.
These difficult cases require expert navigation of the many rules and regulations that govern school districts in California and around the country. It is imperative if your child is a victim of physical or sexual assault at school that you call an attorney immediately. Because a school and or school district is in most cases considered a public entity the time in which you have to act is very limited.
If your child or the child of someone you know has been the victim of physical or sexual assault at school call the injury specialists at Alexander Law Group, LLP, LLP, today for a free and confidential consultation.