Legal Liability Of Teachers And Administrators


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Dr. William Allan Kritsonis earned his BA in 1969 from Central Washington University, Ellensburg, Washington. In 1971, he earned his M.Ed. from Seattle Pacific University. In 1976, he earned his PhD from the University of Iowa. In 1981, he was a Visiting Scholar at Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, and in 1987 was a Visiting Scholar at Stanford University, Palo Alto, California. In June 2008, Dr. Kritsonis received the Doctor of Humane Letters, School of Graduate Studies from Southern Christian University. The ceremony was held at the Hilton Hotel in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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Legal Liability Of Teachers And Administrators

  2. 2. Teachers have two basic duties…to deliver academic instruction and supervise students. The courts have conveyed that teachers have a mandatory duty to supervise students under their direction during the school day as well as at school-sponsored activities.
  3. 3. <ul><li>The process of teaching and learning takes place in an environment in which the rights of teachers and students are constantly being balanced against the rights and responsibilities of school officials to maintain a safe, caring and orderly environment (Webb 2000). </li></ul>
  4. 4. <ul><li>Teachers that are responsible for younger school aged children are held to a higher standard of care than teachers of more mature students. </li></ul>
  5. 5. A higher standard of care is also demanded of those teachers responsible for the physically or mentally challenged, the vocational and industrial arts, and the physical education teachers.
  6. 6. NEGLIGENCE <ul><li>The most common category of torts in education is negligence. Negligence may be defined as the omission to do something that a reasonable person, guided by those ordinary considerations that ordinarily regulate human affairs, would do. There are four “ingredients” to be proved before an educator can be found guilty of negligence: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>A legal duty to provide appropriate standard care </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>A failure in that duty to provide the reasonable standard of care (a breach of duty) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>A casual relationship between the negligent action and the resultant injury </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>A physical or mental injury resulting in actual loss </li></ul></ul></ul>
  7. 7. TORTS
  8. 8. Ex. An unsafe stairwell <ul><li>The most frequently cited statute is the Texas Tort Claims Act . This spells out the circumstances under which a governmental entity in Texas can be held liable for a personal injury. The Act permits injured parties to recover from most governmental entities damages cause by the negligent acts of employees arising from the operation of motor vehicles or from some condition of public property. </li></ul>
  10. 10. TEXAS TORT CLAIMS ACT <ul><li>1978 Texas Supreme Court case, Barr v. Bernhard — Student was severely injured when a calf he was tending to bumped a pole and caused the roof of a barn to collapse on him. </li></ul>
  11. 11. TEXAS TORT CLAIMS ACT <ul><li>Heyer v. North East I. S. D.— Student was power braking car in the school p-lot and car careened out of control and struck another student who was seriously injured. Court held that since vehicle was not owned or operated by an agent of the school district, the injury did not arise from the operation or use of a motor vehicle as contemplated by the Tort Claims Act exception and the school district was not liable. </li></ul>
  12. 12. LIABILITY <ul><li>Courts have also held school officials personally liable for damages if they violate the clearly established constitutional rights of students and teachers. When planning professional development, administrators should make sure the following questions are addressed: </li></ul><ul><li>Are teachers required to supervise their students at all times? </li></ul><ul><li>Can teachers be held liable if a student injures another student or teacher? </li></ul><ul><li>Are there special legal definitions that impact upon teachers who supervise the cafeteria or playground? </li></ul><ul><li>If teachers are careless, are they automatically liable for damages? </li></ul><ul><li>Are there special liability standards for substitute teachers and student teachers? </li></ul><ul><li>What is the “assumption of risk”? What is “contributory negligence”? </li></ul><ul><li>Can teachers use governmental immunity as a defense against negligence? </li></ul><ul><li>Can schools be held liable for failure to maintain a safe environment? </li></ul><ul><li>What kinds of damages do the courts award? </li></ul>
  14. 14. PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT <ul><li>SUGGESTED PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT TOPICS: </li></ul><ul><li>Certification, Employment, Contracts, Collective Bargaining </li></ul><ul><li>Due Process, Insubordination </li></ul><ul><li>Student Records, Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act </li></ul><ul><li>Standard of Care and Duty, Liability </li></ul><ul><li>Copyrights and Fair Use </li></ul><ul><li>Academic Freedom </li></ul><ul><li>Freedom of Expression, Disruptive Speech, Slander and Libel </li></ul><ul><li>Child Abuse and Neglect </li></ul>
  15. 15. RESOURCES <ul><li>Fischer, L., Schimmel, D., & Kelly, C. (1999). Teachers and the Law (5 th ed.). New York: Longman. </li></ul><ul><li>Hogan, J. C. (1985). The Schools and the Courts, and the Public Interest. New York: Lexington Books. </li></ul><ul><li>Sewall, A. M. (1995). Teacher Liability: What We Don’t Know Might Hurt Us. </li></ul><ul><li>Strope, J. L. (1984). School Activities and the Law. Reston: Virginia: NASSP. </li></ul><ul><li>Walsh, J., Kemerer, F., & Maniotis, L. (2005). The Educator’s Guide to Texas School Law. Austin: University of Texas Press. </li></ul><ul><li>Webb, L., Metha, A., & Forbis Jordan, K. (2000). Foundations of American Education (3 rd ed.). New Jersey: Merrill. </li></ul>