School District Not Liable For Injuries Resulting From Student Fight

Monday, May 20, 2013

In a decision that provides guidance for almost all school districts, on May 20, 2013, the Third Department held, in Conklin v. Saugerties Central School District, 106 A.D.3d 1424 (2013), that a school district could not have reasonably anticipated an attack by one student on another, thereby dismissing the complaint brought by the parent of the injured student alleging negligent supervision against the school district.  In reaching its decision, the court relied upon the following well-settled legal principles:  schools are under a duty to adequately supervise students in their charge and they will be held liable for foreseeable injuries proximately related to the absence of adequate supervision; schools are not, however, insurers of student safety and will not be held liable for every thoughtless or careless act by which one pupil may injure another.  The court found that the school district could not have reasonably anticipated the attack, despite the fact that the parent had notified the school district just prior to the assault about a threating post between the students on MySpace, where: (1) a school social worker met with both students that morning and, throughout that meeting, both students remained calm and denied any intention to fight; (2) the students involved also met with the school resource officer, who discussed criminal implications of assaulting another student, and the assistant principal, who discussed the disciplinary implications of fighting; (3) the two students passed each other in the hallway that morning without incident; and (4) there was no evidence of prior similar conduct by the offending student that could have made the attack foreseeable.

Read the decision here.


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