COURT RULES IN STUDENTS CAN HOLD SCHOOL LIABLE FOR SHOOTING INJURIES
This issue was highlighted when an Indiana appeals court recently considered a case involving two students injured in a school shooting. The case illustrates the risks that can occur in a school setting and the rights of needlessly harmed victims.
School failed to implement safety plan
The shooting occurred in 2011 at a middle school in Martinsville, Indiana, according to the Northwest Indiana Times. One student was directly injured when he was shot twice in the stomach. A second student was injured when the ejected shell casings hit him in the hand. The parents of these two students filed a lawsuit, alleging that the school failed in its duty to protect them.
The school argued that the lawsuit should be dismissed because the shooting could not have reasonably been anticipated or prevented. The school also contended that the principal had developed an adequate safety plan, so the school was protected from liability under Indiana’s Torts Claims Act.
However, upon evaluating the circumstances of the case, an appeals court found that the school had sufficient reason to believe a shooting might occur. The court also held that, even if the school had an adequate safety plan in place, the plan was not properly implemented. According to official court documents, the following facts were presented as evidence:
- The perpetrator had threatened physical violence against his victim in front of one teacher during the month before the shooting.
- When the shooting occurred, the perpetrator was suspended for making threats to blow up the school.
- The perpetrator arrived on school grounds at least 30 minutes before the shooting, but monitors who were stationed at the school’s entrances and knew that he was suspended failed to notice his presence.
A trial court still must determine whether the school actually is liable for the injuries of the two students. If the school is found liable, the students may be entitled to damages for emotional suffering, costs of medical care and more.
Liability for other school injuries
School injuries can take various forms. In the absence of appropriate supervision or rules, students may hurt their peers. Staff members may directly harm students. Students may also be injured in indirect but preventable ways, such as suffering from a fall or other accident on hazardous parts of school grounds.
Determining liability for a student’s physical or emotional injuries can be difficult, which is why parents with an injured child can benefit from consulting with an attorney. A personal injury attorney can help parents understand whether they have grounds to seek justice through a lawsuit against the school or another party.