When children leave the care of their parents during the school day, the school and its staff become legally responsible for the child. Any injury that occurs because of insufficient supervision can make a school liable. To maintain a safe learning environment, it is crucial to be informed and vigilant over students. Teachers, administrators, and staff must fully fulfill their duty of care in order to avoid negligent supervision in schools.

What Is “Duty of Care” and Why Is It Important?

The duty of care is defined as “a requirement that a person acts toward others and the public with the watchfulness, attention […] that a reasonable person in the circumstances would use.” In a school setting, teachers must strictly adhere to the duty of care. They are held to a higher standard than those in different careers or circumstances. The teacher’s duty of care is to provide a safe learning environment when a parent is absent. This means observing and preventing physical, emotional, and mental harm to their students. 

Examples of Negligent Supervision in Schools

Supervision negligence can happen in a variety of forms. For example, a teacher could accidentally leave a student on the playground unsupervised. Or school administrators could neglect to appropriately scan applicants and hire a dangerous employee. Examples of this could be a sex offender or an employee with an explosive temper. Also, while a teacher is distracted, predators or even peers could take the chance to abduct or assault a victim. Then, school becomes liable for any harm that occurs.

Legislative Consequence: Personal Injury Lawsuit

If a child is harmed as a result of negligent supervision, the school or staff can be sued. Most often, violations of duty of care result in personal injury lawsuits. Claims must be filed within 2 to 3 years of the incident to be valid. These claims often ask for compensation for medical bills as well as any other “damages” to the victim. Damages can be anything from resulting mental trauma to the family’s monetary loss. Understanding claims and related terms can help administrators develop an appropriate understanding of the legal repercussions. 

Preventing Negligence

Prevention is the best way to avoid a personal injury lawsuit. Training can teach staff to be aware of the signs of bullying and cyberbullying, which can lead to student harm. If a teacher notices anything in the realm of harassment, they should take the appropriate steps to stop it immediately. Schools should also develop a reporting system for such incidents. That way, administrators can intervene as quickly as possible.

However, many bullying incidents happen online, away from the eyes of teachers. That doesn’t mean that schools aren’t liable for incidents that occur on school computers. Up to 37% of students report being cyberbullied. Because cyberbullying is so prominent, schools know there’s a risk of harm on school computers. To preserve student safety, schools should should use screen monitoring software, like LearnSafe. LearnSafe detects cyberbullying and other at-risk behaviors. Also, LearnSafe alerts administrators, allowing them to stop dangerous situations before it’s too late. LearnSafe can even be installed on laptops sent home for distance learning. In this way, LearnSafe ensures student safety no matter where learning takes place.


Text by Kassie Roberts


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