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School Transportation Liability

What happens if a school bus driver causes an accident while transporting your child to or from school? Is there school transportation liability?

That’s an easy one. If your child, god forbid, is hurt in the bus accident, then yes, you have the right to sue the school district. It is difficult to sue the government, because the government at all levels has given itself immunity from personal injury lawsuits. It wrote a law that says you can’t sue us if we negligently hurt you, with a few exceptions. However, there are exceptions and this is one of them. In this scenario, you would have the right to sue the school district as the employer of the negligent bus driver.

If a bus driver allowed a child to fall asleep and remain on the bus, as has happened in the Philadelphia area in the recent past, then yes, he was negligent. As such, the school district could again be sued and would be vicariously liable for his negligence. His negligence could be in the form of negligently driving a school bus or negligently not realizing he still had a sleeping child on the bus when he parked the bus in the yard for the night and went home.

Any act that can be done, can be done negligently. An omission can be, and often is, negligence.

Negligence is a breach of a duty of care that causes someone to suffer harm; it is a mistake or exercise of poor judgment that causes harm. It is not intentional. If it were intentional, it would probably be a crime.

What we have said about a school district’s liability for transporting your child is very different from a school district’s duty to protect your child while he or she is in their custody. Experiences such as bullying, threats of violence and other criminal actions perpetrated by other students can make school a terrible place for the child on the receiving end. You would think the school district has a duty to protect your child from harm to at least some degree when your child is outside your control. When they have exclusive control. When you have no choice but to send her to school due to compulsory education laws (other than home schooling).

Common sense says, the teacher and lunchroom aides can’t stick their head in the sand like an ostrich while a child is being tormented or otherwise harmed. We trust the school district to protect our children, at least from physical harm and many forms of emotional harm. Stay tuned for our next article, which will talk about a public school district’s duty, or lack thereof, to protect your child from harm while your child is in its custody, care and control. Might want to keep a shot of vodka or Xanax or whatever nearby, to keep your blood pressure down, when you read this coming blog… Happy Fall season.

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