Schools are not immune to legal proceedings. Before suing, it is not uncommon to be required to exhaust all administrative remedies before filing a claim. There are a number of reasons why an individual, group, or school employee may file a lawsuit, including but not limited to:
- Discrimination - schools cannot discriminate against students under any protected categories, such as race, age, sex, religion, or disability.
- Excessive and Severe Punishment - the punishment a child receives cannot place the child in grave danger.
- Injuries to a child caused by an employee.
- School’s failure to prevent bullying and violence.
- Failure to Supervise - if a student was injured under the supervision of the school (or lack thereof), the school may face a charge of negligence.
- Sexual Misconduct - any form of sexual harassment, sexual assault, molestation, or rape by a teacher to a student, or by one student to another student may hold the school liable.
- Improper Discharge of a Teacher - if a teacher has been fired due to incompetence or criminal conduct, he or she may be able to sue after they have gone through all of the administrative remedies.
- Improper Expulsion - if a student was expelled improperly, and has gone through all administrative remedies, they may be able to sue the school.
- Educational Malpractice - failure to satisfactorily educate a student may open up the school to liability.
Exhausting all administrative remedies simply means going through all non-judicial remedies provided by the organization, board, or commission before filing a claim for any of the above offenses.
Who Can Be Sued?
No person or entity is excluded from becoming a defendant in a lawsuit, and having multiple defendants is not unusual. Schools can also be held vicariously liable for having employed an individual who was involved in the incident in question. The following are the most common defendants in a school lawsuit:
- Principal and Vice Principal
- Individual school
School’s have many hands involved, so when something goes wrong, the ripple effect can occur, and several parties may be held responsible. For example, if a coach had been making sexual advances toward a student, not only is he or she liable, but the principal, school, and any other faculty who knew of the advances but failed to take appropriate action, could also be implicated in a lawsuit.
What are the Chances of My Success?
The chances of a successful lawsuit against a school, can depend on the type of case you file in court. For example, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits federally-funded schools from discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in any school programs or activities. This type of case may have a higher success rate, as compared to other cases that don’t involve civil rights violations.
School bullying has become a hot topic in recent years, and is usually taken very seriously. If you filed a bullying complaint with the school, and they failed to take appropriate action, you may be able to win your case. However, this type of case has garnered so much attention that schools generally take swift and immediate action to prevent their own liability. By doing so, the likelihood of a plaintiff winning a bullying case lessens.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Sue a School?
If you plan on suing a school, or any of the parties involved with the school, it is best to first consult with a local government attorney. A lawyer can help you exhaust the initial required administrative remedies (when applicable), proceed to filing a claim, and finally, represent your best interests in court.