Premises Liability in Schools & Duty of Care
The school bells are ringing yet again in Chester County, PA, as they are throughout the state of PA. The first week of school brings both excitement and trepidation for parents, teachers, and students.
What many parents and students do not realize is that much goes on behind the scenes before the doors even open. Preparations for curriculum and safety are addressed by the school boards and administrators with seminars on all possible issues before opening.
Premises Liability is simply defined as the Duty of Care that must be followed without negligence. Proving negligence in Premises Liability Law is essential in winning a lawsuit. Any owner or, in the case of schools, administrators and school boards must ensure the safest possible surroundings for students.
Schools cannot prevent all accidents from occurring, as students can be mischievous or unruly at times. After all, they are young. Other accidents that occur due to malfeasance on the part of students might not meet the requirements for a negligence lawsuit.
If any child or teen is injured in a school or during after-school activities, the best way to determine if a negligence lawsuit exists is to consult with a seasoned negligence attorney such as Christian J. Hoey, ESQ. Much research is needed, and actions must be swift and sure on the part of any potential plaintiff.
Examples of Premises Liability in Schools
Not all schools are alike, nor do they have the same type of facilities. These examples are just some common attributes that school boards and administrators must examine before school openings each year.
· Cleanliness of school premises
A dirty floor can cause slip and fall injuries, and these are very common in schools. Children and teens tend to run, even when schools post signs stating “No Running.” Janitorial staff and maintenance should always be on hand to clean up any spills in hallways, classrooms, and, of course, cafeterias.
Food services, even if subcontracted out, must also follow all cleanliness rules to ensure that food poisoning or even other types of bacteria are not transmitted. The Department of Health inspects nationwide, but the guidelines are set by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control).
· Behavior monitoring safety
Schools are under a Duty of Care to ensure that no unwanted visitors enter the school building. Most use security keypads, cameras, and other security measures. Entry monitoring personnel and hallway monitoring must be in place, as well as cafeteria monitors.
The monitoring not only includes keeping out unwanted visitors but also any scuffles or arguments that might ensue amongst students. Teachers and all school personnel are generally mandatorily trained to de-escalate any issues among students. Some schools provide First Aid Training, but it is not mandatory in some states or even school districts.
· Extracurricular activities safety
All types of sports activities do carry a risk of injury, and coaches and assistants are under a lot of pressure to ensure injuries do not occur especially serious ones. Schools must ensure all playing fields and, of course, swimming pools, if they exist, are in compliance with all safety guidelines.
Like with indoor school times, outside activities, even school trips, must meet a Duty of Care that is essentially higher. Compliance regulations exist in PA for all extracurricular activities with paperwork involved where parents give consent for medical treatment if necessary.
All diseases must be disclosed, as well as medical conditions, and the CDC still regulates Covid transmissions when breakouts occur. This higher level of Duty of Care, when breached and injury or illness occurs, should have parents consulting an attorney immediately, such as HoeyLegal.
· School bus safety
Needless to say, school bus safety is a priority for school boards and administrators. It is up to them to provide a contracted bus service or even pay and maintain their own drivers and vehicles. A CDL is a Commercial Driver’s License and must be obtained according to the guidelines of the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association).
The FMCSA also requires passenger safety courses, and usually, CPR courses, for school bus drivers as children are not cargo and can have erratic behaviors. Incident management courses can be a requirement as well.
While fatal school bus crashes are rare, these do occur, and any parent would need a great negligence attorney like Chris Hoey if this happens, as school boards and school administrators do carry insurance and have attorneys at their disposal.
Conclusion– Premises Liability in Schools—Duty of Care
As can be assumed, a school, outside of a home, should be the safest place possible for a child or teen. However, this is not always the case, and although rare, negligent premises liabilities and lack of duty of care do occur.
Sometimes injuries are severe, and Christian J. Hoey, ESQ of Paoli, PA, should be called for a consultation. There are many mitigating and aggravating circumstances in these types of cases, and determining what/where/when is important in building a possible case. Intent also counts and cannot be dismissed.
Any child or teen deserves a safe environment in a school, and all questions concerning lack of duty of care are subject to a free evaluation by Hoey Legal. All phone calls are also welcome: 1-800-G0-HOEY1 or 610-647-5151. Happy school year!