What is Giving Compass?
We connect donors to learning resources and ways to support community-led solutions. Learn more about us.
Giving Compass' Take:
• Jessica Campisi breaks down cases involving student safety and unpacks what they mean for school and district liability.
• How does the burden of liability shape districts' response to safety threats? How can funders work to improve the safety of students?
• Learn about post-Parkland school safety spending.
To what extent are districts, schools liable for students' safety?
Here's how the courts have weighed in and what their decisions mean for school accountability.
While a school’s primary goal is to educate students, another priority is providing a safe environment. It’s a responsibility enforced in federal, state and local laws, but ultimately, students can — and do — get hurt. And when they do, many blame the school or district.
Getting scraped up during recess, for instance, isn’t new. Neither is getting made fun of by a classmate. Some medical experts call falls and broken bones "inevitable," and some scholars cite teasing as an "important preparation for life." But more severe issues, including sexual harassment, cyberbullying and school shootings are increasingly penetrating classrooms, spurring legal disputes over who's responsible.
"School safety is moving from the schoolhouse to the court of public opinion and the law," said school safety consultant Kenneth Trump. "But every case is unique — the legal issues vary, the allegations vary, and that's what makes it hard to pin it down to a handful of specific issues and put it in this neat little box."
Hundreds of lawsuits point the finger at schools or districts when students get injuried. Among the most recent was a suit against Broward County Public Schools and the county sheriff's office — both of which a federal judge said didn't have a legal duty to protect students — after the Parkland, Florida, shooting. These cases span different issues and reached varying verdicts, but they involve the same question: To what degree are these entities liable for students’ safety?
Read the full article about responsibility for student safety by Jessica Campisi at Education Dive.