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Special Relationships in Negligence: School Districts

By law, the existence of a “special relationship” can create a duty for certain organizations and individuals to behave in a certain manner toward the people with whom they interact. 

California recognizes a special relationship between school districts–and their employees–and the students who attend school within the district. This relationship, in turn, creates an affirmative duty for the district to take reasonable steps to prevent reasonably foreseeable risks of harm to its students.

The special relationship does not end at the end of the school day (or start only when the school day begins). Instead, the district’s obligation to protect students against reasonably foreseeable harm extends to, and covers, many after-school and school-sponsored activities as well.

The district’s obligation to protect its students also covers the district’s personnel and hiring decisions. For example, the district cannot be negligent in the way it reviews, hires, or supervises teachers, counselors, coaches, and other employees (and contractors) who work for or on behalf of the school district.

California law also recognizes certain situations in which the school district is immune from harm, at least some of which have been codified in the form of statutory immunity. For example, California Education Code § 44808 protects school districts from liability for injuries to students that occur during many (but not all) off-campus activities.

Parents of Injured Students Should Consult an Attorney Promptly.

Although the school district may not be liable for all injuries students suffer, even in on-campus situations, parents of injured minors should consult a lawyer promptly if their child is injured at school or during school-sponsored activities. Delay may have a negative impact on the family’s right to recover, even where the school or district would otherwise be held legally liable for the student’s injuries.

It’s impossible to evaluate or offer individual advice regarding student injuries and school district liability in an online post; however, parents, schools, and students should all be aware of the potential risks of associated with educational activities, and each party should take appropriate actions to avoid, mitigate, and prevent injuries to students (and others), on campus and at school-sponsored events.

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Disclaimer: THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE AUTHOR AND ANY PERSON. Your rights and experiences may vary. Never use an online article (including this one) to evaluate your legal claims. Speak with an experienced lawyer promptly to obtain a personalized evaluation of your claims, possible damages, and options. You may lose or compromise your rights if you delay in consulting legal counsel. Negligence and premises liability claims are complicated and fact-dependent. If you believe you have a claim against a property owner who permitted or failed to repair a dangerous condition, or any other type of legal claim, consult an experienced lawyer immediately for an evaluation of your possible rights and claims.

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