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Tort and Liability

Amanda M. Burnside

College of Southern Nevada EDU 210

September 21st, 2019

Is a school liable for the death of a student because they failed to notify the parents of his

suspension? Ray Knight was suspended for a total of three days due to excessive unexcused
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absences. Although procedure requires it, the school failed to notify his parents by either phone

nor in writing. One the first day of his suspension, of which Ray’s parents were not aware, Ray

was shot and killed. The shooting was accidental while Ray was at his friend house. Should

Ray’s parents be able to pursue liability charges against the school?

One such court case that shows Ray’s parents may have a case against the district is Perna

v. Conejo Valley Unified School District (1983). In this case a teacher asked a student to stay

after school and assist in grading papers. The sister of the student who always walked home with

her stayed to wait for her sister. At 3:15 pm, when the students were allowed to leave, they were

struck by a vehicle while crossing in the crosswalk. Both girls sustained injuries. An action for

negligence was filed against the driver, the city, and the school district. On the day the sisters

stayed late and the request of the teacher, the school crossing guard left at 2:45pm, when on most

days the guard will stay until 3:30 pm. It is believed by the court that the school district could be

negligent for keeping the student late. It is said the teacher should have know that the school

crossing guard would leave at 2:45 pm and that was the case every Tuesday. In California it has

been established that school districts do have a duty to exercise ordinary care in supervising

students on the premises. The court believed that the negligent supervision by the school district

while the students where on school grounds could have proximately caused the injuries to the

students off campus. The decision was based only on the alleged failure of the school district in

exercising due care in this situation.

Another case where the school was found liable due to negligence is Gary on Behalf of

Gary v. Meche (1993). Tracy Gary was hit by a car after she was dismissed from school. Her

home was located across the street from the school, but on this day instead of waiting for her
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mother she ran across the street on her own. He parents believed that the school should be held

liable in part because the school grounds were not fenced to “funnel” students to the cross walk.

Tracy ran out between two parked cards and into the side of a pick-up sustaining injuries to her

foot and face. It was revealed that the school had no policy regarding the supervision of students

once they were dismissed. It was found by that court that there was no one “on duty” in the

school yard when the incident occurred. The School Board presented no reason as to why they

did not implement a supervision policy at dismissal. The court found the School Board liable for

Tracy Gary’s injuries. They did not take responsibility in supervise their youngest students. That

had a duty to ensure a policy was in place to ensure that their young students do not leave the

school ground unattended. Tracy’s parents received $20,000 in general damages, $10,000 for

future medical expenses, and $5,795.72 in past medical expenses.

A case where the court has an opposite ruling is Hoyem v. Manhattan Beach School

District (1977). Michael Hoyem, just ten years old, was enrolled in the summer school program

at Begg School. On this day Michael left the school grounds before the final classes had been

dismissed. Michael left the school by choice and while standing near an intersection he was hit

by a motorcycle causing serious injuries. Michael’s mother felt that the school was responsible to

supervise Michael in such a way to prevent him from leaving school. She trusted them with the

safety and well being of her son. Education Code section 13557.5 in California states the rule

that a school district has no duty to supervise or protect a student between home and school

unless the district is providing the transportation. It was found that the district was not

responsible for Michaels welfare off school grounds. The moment he became a truant, the school

had no reason to foresee any harm to him.


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Another case where it was found that the school district was not liable for the injuries of a

student is Kerwin v. Jefferson Elementary School District (1959). The question presented was if

the district owed any duty to the plaintiff to protect him on his way home from his brothers’

school. Eleven-year-old Richard was contacted at home, where he was home sick from school, to

come and pick up his six-year-old brother who needed to go home because he was sick. Richard

arrived at the school to pick-up his brother on a bicycle that was built for just one rider. On their

way home from the Elementary School the bicycle tipped over causing injury to Richard. The

court ruled that there is no reason why and eleven-year-old boy would not be able to safely return

home from the school after picking up his brother. The school was not responsible for the

transportation chosen by Richard and were not aware of it. Section 13229 of the Education Code

references that teachers shall hold pupils to a strict account for their conduct on their way to and

from school. The duty of a teacher is not to supervise a student on their way home. Therefore, the

district was not found liable for Richard’s injuries.

Education Code, Article 1. Rights and Duties, section 44808 States that no district, board,

teacher, etc.… shall be responsible or liable for the safety of a pupil if not on school property.

The exception comes when the school, district, teacher etc. has undertaken to provide

transportation for that student. In that case it is required that they need to exercise reasonable

care of the student. I feel in the case of Ray Knight that even though the incident did not occur

on school grounds they still have defensible grounds to pursue liability charges. Although the

unfortunate incident that occurred could not have been foreseen by the school, they failed to

follow procedure and notify Ray’s parents of his suspension. The procedures of the school

district required notification by phone and in writing and the school was negligent in that aspect.
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In Perna v. Conejo Valley Unified School District (1983) the school was found liable as they

were the reason the student had stayed late and was not able to cross with a crossing guest. In

Ray Knights case because the school failed to notify his parents and give them the opportunity to

make arrangements for him to stay with someone or be supervised by an adult, they created a

situation that may have otherwise been avoided. It is the responsibility of the school to follow

procedures that have been set in place to avoid situations in which they may be found

responsible.
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References

Gary v. Meche, 577 So.2d 833 (1991)

Hoyem v. Manhattan Beach City School District 22 Cal.3d 508 (1978)

Kerwin v. Jefferson Elementary School District 176 Cal.App.2d, 304 (1959)

Perna v. Conejo Valley Unified School District 143 Cal.App.2d (1983)