School Liability When a Teacher Doesn't Supervise Students

School Liability When a Teacher Doesn't Supervise Students

Can a school be liable when a teacher violates school policy and leaves students unsupervised?

That was the issue the California Court of Appeal decided recently in the case of Jimenez v. Roseville City School District.

Uriel Jimenez was a middle-school student who was injured performing flips while breakdancing in a school classroom.

The teacher in-charge of the students allowed them to engage in this dangerous activity in his classroom.  The teacher left the students unsupervised for periods of time, in direct violation of school policy.

The lower court dismissed Jimenez’s case, but the California Court of Appeal reversed, saying it is up to a jury to decide if the school could be held responsible for the teacher’s lack of supervision.

A jury, the Court noted, could find it was foreseeable that the school district’s employees tolerated a dangerous situation on its property and failed to ameliorate that danger by supervising the children (Forgnone v. Salvador Union Elementary School Dist. 1940 41 Cal.App.2d 423).

Citing other cases, the Court noted that it did not want school children to “congregate in unsupervised classrooms to engage in physical activities that can easily spiral into dangerous activities.”

Each case must be decided on its own merits, but the Jimenez case will make it harder for schools to have negligent supervision cases dismissed.

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