Can you sue if your child is injured at a Texas public school?

Bedford divorce attorney helping client at Fort Worth courtsPublic schools and their employees in Texas enjoy protection under Texas law from most injuries to the children they supervise. This means that even though schools are responsible for caring for your children during the school day they are generally immune if something happens to your children causing them injury. Several reasons exist why Texas provides public school districts immunity from injury-based lawsuits.

First, schools are responsible for hundreds, sometimes thousands of students at a single time. It would be impractical to assume that the relatively small staff could watch every square inch of the school and every student during every second of the school day from the time the first student arrives to the time the last student leaves.

Second, it allows teachers discretion to teach classes without fear that any accident could result in a lawsuit. Without immunity, athletics programs would disappear, as would classes like chemistry where a student might suffer burns.

Third, schools have a certain amount of authority to implement corporal punishment; without immunity, every exercise of corporal punishment would result in a lawsuit for assault.

Forth, schools cannot control student behavior and cannot be reasonably expected to prevent one student from injuring another. In short, the law allows schools to teach students within the reality of handling so many students.

School immunity in Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas

That does not mean schools are completely immune from all injuries students sustain on campus. The immunity only protests the district, schools, district property and professional employees. Schools generally do not enjoy protections from the actions (or negligence) of contractors, volunteers, visitors and other non-employees. In fact, as explained below, the school likely has a reasonable duty to protect students from these people.

The law provides two exceptions to the general immunity for schools and their employees. First, using excessive force in disciplining a student that results in bodily harm is beyond immunity. Excessive force typically goes far beyond spanking, running laps, bear crawls, carrying weights, or other typical discipline. However, any reasonable form of punishment can become excessive; for example, running laps might be reasonable but if it is incredibly hot and the coach makes students run laps as punishment until they pass out and get a concussion on impact with the ground could be excessive. There is no clear standard for what is excessive. It is going to be a question for the jury.

Second, the negligence of an employee that results in bodily harm to a student will destroy the immunity, but only if the negligence involves the operation of a public school vehicle, such as a bus or van.

Third, if an employee causes a student to suffer injury by negligence or intentional acts through behavior that is outside of his or her professional duties, the immunity will not extend. For example, a teacher who sexually abuses students will not avoid liability for the injuries to his or her victims. In a less evil situation, an athletic coach who offers medical advice to a player that causes injury to the player might also be liable for injury because the coach is probably not responsible (or licensed) for offering students medical advice. (However, the coach may have discretion to determine whether the student is physically capable to play. The wrong decision may invoke immunity.)

The school itself may or may not be liable for the injuries as well. Typically when an employee acts outside of their job duties the employer is not liable for those acts but there could be a combination of intentional acts by an employee outside of the job duties that causes injury but negligence on the part of school officials to investigate and stop the intentional acts. Although job duties are typically listed in some handbook or file, fact questions that will arise.

Schools frequently defeat injury suits because they receive so much immunity written into the laws in this state. That does not mean it is impossible to win at trial or settle a valid claim; but it is more difficult than other places your children might suffer injury. If your child suffers injury due to the conduct of non-employees then that other person may be independently liable. You may file a proper suit against that person instead.

error: Content is protected !!
Scroll to Top