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PORTFOLIO ASSIGNMENT #3: SCHOOL LIABILITY

Portfolio Assignment #3: School Liability

Margaret E. Lewis

College of Southern Nevada


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PORTFOLIO ASSIGNMENT #3: SCHOOL LIABILITY

Introduction

The case in question involves a middle school student, Ray Knight, who was shot while

on suspension from school. Though the school gave Ray a note to take home to his parents to

inform them of his suspension, he threw it away. As such, the parents were unaware of his

suspension, and did not know he was at a friend’s house instead of school. Considering the

school failed to call the parents and mail a notice as the school district requires, the parents

wish to take the school to court for negligence. The following paragraphs will provide evidence

both in support and against pursuing liability charges against the school.

Supporting Legal Action

The first case to be brought forward in support of Ray’s parents taking legal action

against the school is Mitchell v. Cedar Rapids Community School District. In this case, a special

education student D.E., a ninth grader at Kennedy High School, left school early with a twelfth

grade special education student, M.F. As in Ray’s case, the D.E.’s parents were unaware that

she had left school early and thought that she was at school. Kennedy High School had an

attendance system that would automatically call parents in the evening in the case of an

unexcused absence. As such, D.E.’s parents would not hear about her absence until much later

that day. While ditching from school, D.E. and M.F. went to a friends’ house. At the friend’s

house, M.F. raped D.E. while the friend shot at her with a BB gun. Though D.E. did not inform

her mother (Mitchell) until several months later, upon hearing what happened, Mitchell took

D.E. to the police and filed a report. M.F. pled guilty. Mitchell then sued Kennedy High School

for negligence, and was awarded damages. This case is similar to Ray’s in that both students
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were out of school without their parent’s knowledge, and while out of school, they both

became victims of crime. Considering that Mitchell and D.E. won the case against Kennedy, this

is strong evidence to suggest that Ray’s parents should sue.

The second case to support Ray Knight’s parents pursuing liability charges is Hoyem v.

Manhattan Beach City School District. Michael Hoyem, a ten year old student attending

summer school Begg School, left school grounds during the school day. He did so of his own

will and without informing any of his teachers or his parents. While standing near an

intersection off school grounds, he was struck by a motorcycle and sustained serious injuries.

Mary Ann Hoyem, Michael’s mother, decided to sue the school for negligence, claiming that the

school authorities had failed to adequately supervise Michael. She asserted that the school had

the duty to prevent her son from going off school property during the school day, and they

neglected to perform this duty. This case is similar to Ray’s in that both students were injured

while off school property during the school day, and Ray’s parents could use this to prove

negligence on behalf of the school.

Against Legal Action

Hill v. Safford Unified School District will be the first case to be brought forward as

evidence to suggest that Ray Knight’s parents should not pursue legal action against Ray’s

school. In this case, students Clint Hill and Justin Grotte were arguing with fellow student and

gang member Troy White. Police were called to question the students, and White was

suspended. Another verbal altercation occurred among Grotte, Hill, and another student the

next school day. Police were once again called, but by the time they got there, these students

and several others had already left school grounds and gone to an area outside of the town. At
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this location, one of the students pulled a gun and shot Clint Hill in the chest, killing him. Hill’s

mother, Kathy, took legal action against the school for negligence and wrongful death.

However, the courts did not find the school liable for the incident. This ruling suggests that

Ray’s parents could also fail to win against the school, as Ray, like Clint, was shot off school

property.

The second case that suggests Ray’s parents should not pursue liability charges is Sutton

v. Duplessis. In this case, a six-year old child, Peter Sutton, was injured by a car while outside

the school. It was a half day at school; however, Peter’s mother was unaware of this, and had

not gone to the school to pick up her son. As such, Peter was made to wait in the principal’s

office for his mother to arrive. In the meantime, he snuck out with another family. When the

mother of the other family caught him, she told him to go back to the principal’s office. Peter

ran across the street and was struck by a car driven by his physical education teacher, Mr.

Duplessis. Peter’s mother filed suit against the school for negligence, but the courts attributed

60% of the negligence to Peter’s mother herself. This pertains to Ray Knight’s case in that Ray’s

parents could be found negligent for allowing their son to frequently skip school and for not

being aware of his location.

Conclusion

After reviewing these various cases, I have concluded that Ray Knight’s parents do have

grounds to pursue liability charges against the school. As seen in Mitchell v. Cedar Rapids

Community School District and Hoyem v. Manhattan Beach City School District, school officials

have the duty to inform parents that their children are not in class and the duty to prevent

students from leaving school grounds during the day. In these cases as well as Ray’s, the school
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failed to perform their duty, and as a result, students were injured. In Mitchell v. Cedar Rapids

Community School District, the school failed to inform D.E.’s parents in a timely manner that

she had missed class, and as a result, D.E. became a rape victim. Had Ray’s teachers called his

parents to inform them that he had been suspended from school, Ray would not have been

shot. In Hoyem v. Manhattan Beach City School District, school officials failed to prevent

Michael Hoyem from leaving school property, and he was involved in a motorcycle accident

that caused Michael serious injuries. Similarly, if Ray had been on school property at the time,

he would not have been shot and killed. Ray’s school can and should be held accountable for

failing to notify Ray’s parents of his suspension and for allowing him to be in a dangerous

location and situation without anyone’s knowledge.


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References

MITCHELL v. CEDAR RAPIDS COMMUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT (June 21, 2013)


(FindLaw, Dist. file).

HOYEM v. MANHATTAN BEACH CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT (Court of Appeal, Second


District, Division 5, California. July 21, 1977) (FindLaw, Dist. file).

HILL v. SAFFORD UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT (Court of Appeals of Arizona,Division 2,


Department B. December 30, 1997) (FindLaw, Dist. file).

Louisiana, C. O. (1991, July 30). SUTTON v. DUPLESSIS | 584 So.2d 362 (1991) |
so2d3621927. Retrieved April 15, 2018, from
https://www.leagle.com/decision/1991946584so2d3621927
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