Decision to make school liable was unreasonable
August 27, 2003
I realize I am getting more conservative, but why can’t people take responsibility for their actions?
Ruckus at school
Anthony Durant enrolled at Banning High School. The first week, a group of students challenged him to fight because they believed he had defaced a “homey’s” name in a book. I don’t even know what a homey is, which is the first clue I am not qualified to write this piece. Whatever, I am sure I wouldn’t’ want my kids going to Banning.
This Los Angeles County high school is a “closed campus,” meaning school officials monitor the coming and going of students and secure all campus entrances and exits during school hours. The school was proud of its record of not having a shooting or stabbing in over a five-year period. Over five years mind you.
The next time someone asks you why you live in the harsh, remote Sierra Nevada, think about sending your kids to Banning High School.
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Back to Anthony Durant. Weeks later, Durant arrived at school before campus was open, while the school gates were unsupervised.
He saw another student who gave him a “look.” Durant, being a proud dude, left campus with the student who gave him a “look.” When someone gives me a “look,” if it’s a gal, I look back; if it’s a mean S.O.B., I look the other way and tell myself he must have been looking at someone else.
Anyway, Durant and the other student began arguing. The other student shot Durant in the neck. The logical and proud thing to do.
The school did it
Assuming no responsibility for his own actions, Durant sued the school district for failure to properly supervise him.
The trial court found the shooting was unforeseeable, in part because the shooting occurred off campus before school personnel arrived. School districts generally owe no duty of care to students not on school grounds.
Durant argued there is a “special relationship” between schools and students requiring schools to “take all reasonable steps to protect students.” That’s true. In fact, it is well established that a school’s duty to supervise students begins before students sit down at their desks.
The school district argued it was not foreseeable that Durant would be shot off campus. Neither he nor the shooter had ever fought, and the school district did everything it could.
The court ruled it was not necessary to prove that a shooting was foreseeable. The school district is responsible if a “reasonable person would foresee that injuries of the same general type would be likely to happen in the absence of adequate safeguards.” Under the circumstances presented here with gang overtures, an attack with firearms was foreseeable.
I suppose the school district should provide private guards for each student – escorts to and from school. There is only so much a school can do. Bad decision.
Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter-Simon, with offices in Truckee, South Lake Tahoe and Reno. He is a mediator and was the Governor’s appointee to the Bipartisan McPherson Commission and the California Fair Political Practices Commission. He may be reached at email@example.com or at the firm’s Web site http://www.portersimon.com.