Children going to school

Public vs. Private Schools: Who’s Responsible If Your Child Is Hurt?

No parent wants to hear that their child was hurt at school, whether it’s an accident on the playground, an incident of bullying, or even an allergic reaction. If you’re like most parents, you may wonder what your legal recourse is if your child has been injured at their public or private school. 

While not legally an insurer of your student’s safety, your child’s school does have a duty to exercise reasonable supervision and care to ensure the safety of its students.

It’s important to note that supervision and safety expectations apply to both public and private schools. Just because a school is privately owned and operated doesn’t mean it’s outside of legal regulations that apply to children in its care.  

For example, any school has a duty to supervise the children outside of the classroom, during lunch and recess, or before or after school hours while the children are on school property. This duty of care exists for both public and private institutions.

State intervention in the regulation of private schools is minimal, but the state does require a certain degree of regulation to ensure the safety of children attending private schools. Therefore, the state may conduct an investigation when complaints or concerns arise regarding the school’s ability to keep students safe.

What are schools responsible for providing?

A duty of reasonable care is expected from both public and private schools. Some examples of the care and supervision required are:

  • Lunch and recess supervision
  • Supervision when children are playing in groups
  • Providing clean, safe facilities
  • Ensuring proper maintenance of school grounds to prevent injury and illness
  • Hiring qualified, competent teachers, coaches, and support staff 

However, the duty to supervise only applies to situations where injuries are foreseeable. For example, if an injury isn’t likely to occur in a particular scenario, the school probably wouldn’t be liable.

Is a school liable for the actions of other students?

Who is liable for an injury that another student caused can be a complicated question and one of the reasons you need an experienced personal injury lawyer who understands how to assign liability. 

Each injury and circumstances are different. Who is liable will depend on where the injury happened and whether any supervising staff members were negligent or not fulfilling their duties.

Let’s say, for example, that a school knows about a problem with a bully on its premises, but the school fails to prevent the bully from harming other students. The school may be liable for any injuries other students receive from the bully. 

Or, if certain areas in the school are known for fighting, such as in the parking lot or a school bathroom, and the school doesn’t implement safety measures, then the school may be liable for injuries from these fights.

What are some things I can sue a private school for?

You can sue both public and private schools for the same things, such as injuries, negligence, or exposure to toxic substances.

However, there’s one type of suit against a private school that doesn’t arise at a public school: tuition disputes. Tuition disputes are civil matters and not personal injury cases, but our legal team has experience with those as well. 

Do you have a claim against your child’s school?

If you believe that your child was injured and their school could have taken steps to prevent it, we can help. 

Hunt Law of Northern New Mexico has a personal injury attorney ready to fight for you. We have the knowledge and tenacity you need to craft and file a strong claim. 

Call us today to discuss the circumstances of your case.