Menu
0

800-523-2319experts@tasanet.com

Articles

Escalating Violence and Parental Litigation: The National Call for Student Safety Plans in School Districts and Universities

TASA ID: 1646

If there is any university president or school superintendent in the nation who currently operates without formalized school safety plans in place (quite apart from the noticeable but ignored "thou-shalt-nots" festooned on campus walls, doors and fences), s/he needs to regard-as a wake-up scream-the thunderous allegations of negligence, child endangerment, foreseen traumatic event, breach of duty of care, sexual molestation, dereliction of duty, and reckless disregard hurled by a passing parade of aggrieved and angry parents. They will set the pace nationwide in the filing of future lawsuits over the on-campus dangers and subsequent injuries and traumas, of various kinds and degrees, to their children. These are the parents whose litigated judgment awards and out-of-court settlements can turn the school-as-temporary-guardian concept of in loco parentis into a sort of hot stock du jour. In their minds, no damage awards could ever compensate for the grievous injuries, abuse, molestation, or deaths to their children. Amid and after news footage showing children carrying lunch bags to school, and the same day being carried away in body bags, it is the very rare lawsuit alleging "negligent in loco parentis" that has been held by courts as being without merit.

The Parent Invasion

It is a new day in American school governance, and school, college and university administrators must recognize that, in our post-Columbine, post-9/11, post-Virginia Tech, post-Penn State, and post-Syracuse University climates, parents are holding them utterly responsible for ensuring the perpetual safe-keeping and welfare of their children. School officials and their general counsels must also understand that the wrath of grieving, surviving parents is being visited upon not only schools and school districts but also upon others whom parents deem responsible for their victim-children's injuries or deaths-whether such occurred from homicidal acts or not.

Newspaper headlines trumpet the plaintiff-parent lawsuits now approaching the $500-million dollar mark in the aftermath of Littleton, Colorado's Columbine High School tragedy. In Norwalk, California, an $80-million settlement was reached with the family of a boy left paralyzed when he was struck in a crosswalk by a car driven by a school district employee. Parents of a 7-year old boy killed by a janitor's utility cart at his Los Angeles school sued the school district for $84 million. Parents of a Westchester County (NY) football player who died after being punched at an after-school drinking party sued 14 teenagers, saying they caused their son's death through misconduct and negligence. In this case, the school was not targeted in the suit since the party was after school hours and off-campus. However, in the Penn State and Syracuse University child sexual molestation cases, a popular defensive coordinator (football coach) and an associate head basketball coach are alleged to have manipulated and exploited means, circumstances and opportunities to commit acts of child sexual molestation acts. The schools were thus put on the firing range and targeted.

Now Is Not the Time to Wait

Rather than wait for the next violent school tragedy to occur, or for some legislative mandate, educators ought to begin developing comprehensive school safety plans...now! All high school districts in the country have clear and complete standards for the instruction and evaluation of their driver education and training courses. Likewise, school administrators ought to exercise the same diligence and develop comprehensive school safety standards complete with student and staff accountability measures.

It Takes Only One Child to Raze a Village

Following my 48-month in-person/in-prison interviews of 103 girls and boys incarcerated in state prisons for committing homicide and murder, Bobbie Battista, former host of CNN TalkBack Live, invited me on her show, where she publicly took me to task for stating that today, children are going to school and getting executed, not educated. She said, "Every child who gets bullied does not become a murderer." My response was "Historically, school violence has never been about 'every child,' most children, or the majority. School violence has always been brought to us by the few children in the minority we overlook or disregard, whose needs are greater and graver than we could ever imagine. The students in the minority whose names were Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris made Columbine High School the Pearl Harbor of school violence."

And I told my interviewer on The NBC Today Show, "The weak-in a reversal of Darwin's survival of the fittest-are now going after and taking out the strong." School boards and their superintendents can no longer afford to think their schools are idyllic paradises, immune to the sins and sizzles of the "greater out there." Short-sighted indeed is the school official who wraps herself in the cozy and complacent delusion that every child is simply not suddenly going to throw a gun into his backpack, along with his peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and summarily "announce" his arrival at school with a broadcast of gunfire. Any school official who fails to see that the majority no longer reflects or represents what the FBI now calls the "student threatener" could be playing a deadly numbers game: one student can be more dangerous than 100!

Discipline: Your Best Investment

What should school administrators immediately begin to do to protect their school districts' treasuries from being drained dry by negligence lawsuits? Let's take a page out of New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's "book." Mayor Bloomberg has put the New York City schools on notice by announcing his objective to ferret out and punish disruptive students in the public schools, particularly those in schools with high rates of criminal violence (in previous years thought of as normal), and hold the principals more accountable for reducing disciplinary problems within their schools. My advice is that school administrators should structure their discipline policies along Mayor Bloomberg's "safety first" principles. Then, if these school officials are ever summoned to the witness stand in court, they will be able to more clearly and convincingly show evidence of a pattern and practice of sound school safety plans and procedures at work.

Zero Tolerance

Likewise, school superintendents should establish zero-tolerance policies against bullying, and against racist, anti-Semitic or homophobic taunts by students. Students engaging in such threatening and harmful behavior should be suspended or expelled. The middle school student whose beating and hospitalization was widely reported in the national press should have had the satisfaction of knowing that his principal, teachers and counselors, who all failed in their job to supervise and protect him, were fired or will be. Personnel policies governing the professional responsibilities of school administrators need to be re-written to include such provisions for firing. The collective dereliction of duty almost resulted in the death of this particular student. That is why in loco parentis is now the new battle cry of litigious parents.

To Sue Or Not to Sue...Parents

Certainly, with an eye toward protecting their purses and public relations, school districts might consider suing the parents of student-terrorists. These bullies, assailants, and other anti-social and hostile beings cause constant pain and suffering and place in jeopardy the lives of other children. But before school superintendents leap to launch litigation against dangerously negligent parents, here are some guidelines they and their school boards instead can immediately turn into active and effective policies for ensuring school safety on their campuses.

A school safety committee should be formed and composed of the principal or designee; teacher representative of the recognized teacher union; parent of an attending student; classified employee of the recognized employee union; and other members, if desired. A comprehensive school safety plan should be jointly written with a representative from a law enforcement agency. Each school should have a specific date on which its comprehensive school safety plan is to be adopted and made effective. And each plan should be reviewed every year on that date. Before final adoption of the plan, a public meeting should be held by the school safety planning committee at the school site, to allow for input.

Failure of any school to develop a comprehensive school safety plan should be cited by the school superintendent and sanctions imposed. Whether the state legislature has enacted a school safety law or not, every school should forward its completed comprehensive school safety plan to its respective school district office or county office of education for approval. At the end of each school year, every school should report on the status of its school safety plan in the annual school accountability report card and to the news media.

Strength in Numbers

When engaging in the development of a comprehensive school safety plan, school superintendents should feel free to consult with their counterparts and colleagues in other cities, townships, boroughs, commonwealths, and states. Again, when disclosed on the witness stand in court, such effort will be seen as equivalent to "due diligence" in the gathering and sifting and sorting of facts, information, and violence prevention strategies and programs, and may favor the superintendent and the school district with the court's or jurors' perception of them as concerned and responsive, not careless and negligent.

In addition to the perennial question of accountability, "What did you know and when did you know it?" school officials must today prepare to confront safety negligence lawsuits by coming to terms with the query, "Do you now and did you then have a school safety plan in place?" This will be the presiding question whose answer predicates whether the school district's treasury will be plundered by grieving and furious plaintiff-parents seeking revenge and relief, or preserved by the court as untouchable domain, protected by a comprehensive school safety plan in no less the same way than the school district's driver education curriculum protects the district from lawsuits in the aftermath of errant or reckless student drivers who commit vehicular manslaughter.

 This article discusses issues of general interest and does not give any specific legal or business advice pertaining to any specific circumstances.  Before acting upon any of its information, you should obtain appropriate advice from a lawyer or other qualified professional.

This article may not be duplicated, altered, distributed, saved, incorporated into another document or website, or otherwise modified without the permission of TASA.

Bookmark and Share

Previous Everything You Wanted to Know About School Safety but Were Sued First
Next Judge the Deed (and, more importantly, what lead up to it), Not the Breed
Print
Tasa ID1646

Name:
Email:
Subject:
Message:
x

Let Us Find Your Expert 

Note: This form is to be completed by legal and insurance professionals ONLY. If you are a party in a case that requires an expert witness, please have your attorney contact TASA at 800-523-2319.

Submit

Search Experts

TASA provides a variety of quality, independent experts who meet your case criteria. Search our extensive list of experts now.

Search Experts

Testimonials

  • I think it's always good to have access to experts when [TASA] make[s] the process so easy."

    Scott McIntosh, Lewis McIntosh & Teare, Royersford, PA

  • As a busy practitioner, managing a sizeable caseload, I can use all of the help available to me. If I can outsource a task, particularly one as important as securing a qualified expert, I will jump at the opportunity. I use TASA in nearly every case where I need to find an expert witness, be it an engineer, an architect, an economist, etc. They have thousands of qualified experts to refer in virtually any field. Best of all the process is extremely simple. When I need an expert I simply contact TASA, whose knowledgeable representatives ask you targeted questions about your case, your legal theories, and your goals, in order to find the right expert for your case. I usually receive CVs and calls from the potential expert within hours. If you find the originally selected person is not a good fit – for whatever reason – TASA will work with you to find the right person. I would happily recommend this service to any attorney."

    Patrick K. Gibson, Gibson & Perkins PC, Media, PA

  • Ms. Darlie I. McDonald RN was awesome on the witness stand, and we prevailed in our case to the tune of  [a] (highly unusual [amount] for a medical malpractice [case] in our area).  I'd highly recommend her."

    Shane Reed, Shane A. Reed Law Office, Jacksonville, OR

  • I appreciate your inquiries and offers of assistance as well as the consistently high-quality, well-organized, and erudite TASA webinars, which invariably have excellent presenters."

    Maurice S. Kane, Cummings McClorey Davis Acho and Associates PC, Riverside, CA

  • Steven Kursh was an outstanding technical expert on our ecommerce IP lawsuit. He completed a massive amount of work on extremely complicated material, in a very short period of time. His work product was first rate and I think he would have done a terrific job if the case proceeded to trial. He is very articulate and helped us. I only wish we had gotten him involved sooner in the litigation."

    Daniel J. Brown, Reiss Sheppe LLP, New York, NY

  • I thank you all for the response to my request for an expert witness...Both Mr. Scott and Mr. Bianchi appear to be well-qualified for this case, but we have hired another expert. As always, I was impressed by TASA's ability to produce exceptionally well-qualified candidates with great speed."

    John Thomas Dzialo, The Law Offices of John Thomas Dzialo, Santa Ana, CA

  • Thank you for your quick response and the names of the two proposed experts. The situation that gave rise to our search for these experts has resolved and we will not need to retain them. However, we will continue to keep TASA in mind as these needs arise from time to time as your breadth of coverage for experts of all types is unparalleled, in my experience."

    Bart W. Brizzee, County of San Bernadino, San Bernadino, CA

  • I have used TASA for the last five years for locating an expert for many personal injury cases. On each and every occasion, TASA was able to find me more than one qualified expert. With such a variety of experts, I was able to select one who met my client's needs in prosecuting these claims. I found the experts TASA referred not only qualified, but available on a moment's notice. Your fees are reasonable and fair, and I will continue to use TASA for the remainder of my career."

    Robert Oushalem, Esq., The Law Office of Robert Oushalem, San Jose, CA

  • I recently used TASA for the first time to locate an expert to testify in a case requiring rather unusual expertise and where there were no applicable regulations or standards for guidance. TASA referred an expert in California who was everything a lawyer looks for in a forensic expert. He was promptly available for consultation, efficiently prepared for deposition and trial and very persuasive and credible with the jury. TASA's administrative services and assistance in locating this expert were excellent, and we would certainly use both the expert and TASA in the future."

    Theodore Phillips, Miller Hauser Law Group, LLP, Placerville, CA

  • TASA has always given me first-class service, but in a recent matter, TASA found the 'needle-in-the-haystack' expert witness we feared didn't exist. We needed an expert for a very narrow and limited issue in a very narrow and limited industry. Because TASA has an extensive expert witness database, it was able to give us a referral almost on the spot. It's why I always turn to TASA first."

    Kathleen A. Herdell, Law Offices of Kathleen A. Herdell, St. Helena, CA

  • There are numerous companies that provide litigation experts. However, I always choose the TASA Group because of their quick response in finding a qualified expert for my particular case. I have extreme confidence in the TASA Group and will continue to use their services in the future."

    Katie A. Killion, Esq., Chiurazzi & Mengine, LLC, Pittsburgh, PA

  • I spent hours trying to locate an expert in a very technical case involving a defect in a medical device. I could have saved a lot of time by calling TASA first. Within hours, I was supplied with the name of an engineer who had more than 30 years of job training, education and expertise in the precise area involving the device. Bravo TASA!"

    Timothy W. Peach, Partner, Peach & Weathers, San Bernardino, CA

  • We were involved in a case pending for more than five years with seven parties from three states. Three mediations failed before we looked to TASA for an expert. TASA referred an expert who clearly understood the complexity of the project and could effectively support his opinion. If it weren't for his expert advice and deposition testimony, the case would not have settled. Interestingly, the case settled within 90 days from the date this expert began."

    Renee Colbert, Esq., Corporate Counsel, W.G. Tomko, Inc., Finleyville, PA

  • Using TASA to find experts for defending our client in a negligent homicide case ended up being one of the most important decisions we made in trial preparation. The experts they suggested were exactly what we needed for the case. I truly did not expect to find experts that would be such a perfect fit for the nature of case. TASA provided us with highly qualified experts in somewhat narrow fields of expertise. A large percentage of our victory is due to the experts recommended by TASA."

    Marta Farmer, Esq., Carl S. White Law Office, Haver, MT

  • I have used TASA's services since the 1980's and have never been disappointed. TASA is indispensable for locating that hard-to-find expert. TASA representatives have always been courteous and pleasant, with the attitude that they cannot do enough to help. I expect to continue using TASA throughout my career."

    Brad W. Greenberg, Esq., Smyth Law Offices, P.C., Brockton, MA

  • I needed to retain a multitude of scientists from a variety of disciplines for a complex litigation. Initially, I went through a series of interviews with an extremely knowledgeable and professional team of TASA advisors. They were able to find highly qualified experts in the specific fields, all of whom turned out to be superior in qualification and area of expertise to my adversary’s experts. I am a TASA believer!"

    Nooshin Namazi, Partner, Nicoletti Hornig & Sweeney, New York, NY

  • TASA always comes through in the difficult IP cases. Their representatives work with you to refine the search criteria and quickly send you a list of very qualified experts."

    Timothy L. Boller, Principal, Seed Intellectual Property Law Group, PLLC, Seattle, WA

  • Special thanks to our TASA referral advisor for her quick response to our initial request—we were extremely happy with how fast TASA was able to assist us! Your group does excellent work, and it is always my first stop when looking for an expert."

    Susanne K. Sullivan, Senior Attorney, Southwest Airlines Corporation, Dallas, TX

  • When we needed an expert in a patent infringement lawsuit, we turned to TASA. We were looking for a witness qualified in two unrelated technical areas, and TASA worked with us to identify and refine our requirements. TASA performed well, promptly providing us with several excellent candidates to consider, one of whom we retained."

    Joseph T. Miotke, Partner, IP Practice Group, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, Milwaukee, WI

  • Our team had a very positive experience with TASA. The Expert was professional, efficient, and certainly an expert in his field. His work and testimony contributed to a winning decision for our client! We will recommend the Expert and TASA whenever appropriate."

    Stephanie Sprague, Esq., CT

  • (The Expert) WAS A PERFECT FIT for my case: qualified, competent, easy to work with, attentive to detail, knowledgeable, smart, communicative, enthusiastic, resourceful—have I left anything out? I highly recommend TASA and would be happy to share my experience with anyone else. Thank you!"

    Michael Porrazzo, Esq., The Porrazzo Law Firm, Mission Viejo, CA

  • The expert was very thorough. TASA was quick to respond with an answer to my request. I have used TASA in the past under various other law firms and have been pleased. TASA continues to live up to expectations and then some."

    Anne Desormier-Cartwright, Esq., Jupiter, FL

  • Your organization found us an appropriate expert witness in less than one day. This was excellent service. The expert you found was excellent and a pleasure to work with."

    William A. Ehrlich, Esq., Allentown, PA

  • (The Expert)…accomplished exactly what we wanted. TASA was very prompt and efficient in locating him. All fees were reasonable."

    J. Michael Lehman, Esq., Bruce, Bruce, & Lehman, Wichita, KS

  • We needed an Internet expert right away to meet a deadline. One phone call to TASA, and in less than a day, TASA called back with a list of 8-10 experts who were exactly what I needed. The TASA expert I chose knew the business and mechanics of the Internet so well—he was a PhD and professor who had written a book on the subject—that he put the fear of truth in the defendant that caused him to settle. When I get the kind of service that I did from TASA, I stick with it and use it again and again."

    Philip Green, Attorney at Law, Green and Green, San Rafael and San Francisco, CA

  • Excellent—in a word. I just do not have the time to hunt for experts. (The Expert) was fantastic. Thank you for providing such a quality service."

    Francesca Carinci, Esq., Steubenville, OH

  • TASA stands for Tops At Serving Attorneys. It’s always rewarding working with TASA."

    Marshall A. Bernstein, Esq., Philadelphia, PA.

  • That was, however, one of the best and most interesting webinars I've seen in the last few years.  Thank you for hosting it and introducing me to such a knowledgeable and caring person." - Referencing the Medicolegal Consequences of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Civilian and Military Populations webinar. 

    Lori Bauer Apodaca, The Law Office of Lori Bauer Apodaca, Los Lunas, NM