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Title Court Held That School's Failure, if Any, to Supervise Students in Its Charge, Was Not the Proximate Cause of Student's Injury
Author/s ACSI
Preview Family sues after first grader gets knocked down during play at recess. The article discusses the court's rational for why the school was not liable.
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Court Held That School's Failure, if Any, to Supervise Students in Its Charge, Was Not the Proximate Cause of Student's Injury

Reprinted from Private School Matters, December 2012. Used by permission of Liebert Cassidy Whitmore.


The Supreme Court of New York recently held that a private school was not liable for a first-grade student's injuries that were sustained while the student was playing on school grounds during recess. In the facts of the case, the first-grade student was injured while playing tag during recess at her school when another student who was not participating in the game ran into the first-grade student, knocking her to the ground, and causing her to hit her head. Subsequently, the student and her father sued the School for failure to provide adequate supervision.

The New York State Supreme Court granted the School's motion for summary judgment, dismissing the student and parent's claim. Applying state negligence law principles, the Court explained that although schools have a duty to adequately supervise students, they are only held liable for foreseeable injuries proximately related to the absence of adequate supervision-in other words the School can only be liable for acts of fellow students if it can be established that the school had sufficient specific knowledge or notice of the dangerous conduct which caused the injury, and that the third-party acts could reasonably have been anticipated. In this case, the Court held that the school established that they had no specific knowledge or notice of any dangerous conduct of any kind on the part of the child who ran into the plaintiff, and that the act of another child running into and colliding with the plaintiff was an act that could not have been anticipated. Thus, the Court held that that any alleged lack of supervision on the School's part was not the proximate cause of the student's injury.
 
Diana G. v. Our Lady Queen of Martyrs School (2012) 100 A.D. 3d 592, 953 N.Y.S. 2d 640.

Reprinted from Private School Matters, December 2013, with permission by Liebert Cassidy Whitmore, www.lcwlegal.com/.

The Bottom Line

In this case, the school was not held liable because the injury was not reasonably foreseeable. However, when it comes to supervision, Christian schools must be vigilant! Schools need to be sure they have adequate supervision of children at all times. When it comes to the courts, the younger the child or the more vulnerable the child, the more vigilant the supervision must be. We also should be careful about older children playing around much younger children. In this case, a first grader was run into by a third grader.

It is also important that teachers always have their eyes on the students. It is easy for teachers to get caught up in a conversation with another teacher or a student and lose track of what is going on around them. Schools should have policies that speak to supervision on playgrounds and in other situations. Schools do have a significant responsibility to keep children safe. This responsibility can only be accomplished through diligent supervision. Remind your staff of the supervision policies, and monitor the application of the guidelines.

Notice: These articles are designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. They have been provided to member schools with the understanding that ACSI is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, tax or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. Laws vary by jurisdiction and the specific application of laws to particular facts requires the advice of an attorney.

LLU 23.3

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