Schools around the country, including those in the Sherman Oaks and Greater Los Angeles areas, are under increased scrutiny following the Miramonte Elementary School abuse scandal.
Beyond the negative publicity, the questions persist about the extent to which a school may be held responsible for its negligent hiring and supervision of teachers and other school employees.
Can parents sue their children’s school for negligent hiring?
The first pillar of any negligence action is establishing a duty.
California Government Code section 815.2 states that, “A public entity is liable for injury proximately caused by an act or omission of an employee of the public entity within the scope of his employment if the act or omission would, apart from this section, have given rise to a cause of action against that employee or his personal representative.”
Along with case law interpreting the Code, (most notably C.A. v. William S. Hart Union High School Dist. (2012) 53 Cal.4th 861), a school’s legal duty to its students is more than the typical duty of care. It actually rises to a legal status of being considered a special relationship.
This elevated duty of care means that a school must act reasonably in its hiring and supervision practices. In addition, the plaintiff’s duty to prove the school’s duty is taken as a matter of law in any resulting personal injury claim against the school.
Beyond the criminal charges that those teachers face, the parents of each of the children involved may file civil claims against the individual teacher as well as the school, and possibly even the school board if it was involved in setting policy for hiring or supervision. The other main elements of negligence—breach, causation, and damages—must still be proven. Since the school is considered to have a special relationship with its students, however, the first element has been established.
If your family resides in Sherman Oaks or the Los Angeles area and has been affected by a school’s negligence, contact a personal injury attorney to discuss your possible remedies.