Laws concerning negligence in education are one of the crucial issues in the learning system. Causing injury to a child due to negligence is a weighty matter as the damage can negatively impact their lives. Failure to protect students can occur during class attendance, in the playground or schoolyard, during extracurricular activities, or while moving from one place to another on the school bus. Teachers and school faculty responsible for supervising students at particular times must protect them from unnecessary harm or accidents. Aside from the teacher’s awareness of the legal duty to protect learners, schools should also know the lawful defenses to use in case of intentional or unintentional negligence to shield against unwarranted legal liabilities. This paper analyses the case of Michael Hoyem against Manhattan Beach City School District, which involves allegations of neglect where a student incurs injuries outside school premises during school hours.
The issue is whether the school is liable to negligence if a student incurs injuries outside the institution’s premises during learning hours. The above would not be the case unless there was the foreseeability of the risk of harm which requires extended supervision. A school is only responsible when there is proof of a duty to care, contributory negligence, vicarious liability, predictable risk of injury and causation (Marin-Guzman, 2020). Additionally, a student’s proximity within the extent of supervision boundaries determines the supervisor’s inattention.
The case involves Michael Hoyem, a ten-year-old boy, as the Plaintiff and Manhattan Beach City School District as the defendant and respondent. Michael sustained severe injuries during learning hours due to an accident where a motorist outside the school premises hit him (LawPipe, 2021). According to Mary, the institution is responsible for Michael’s accident since the action occurred during tuition hours. Mary’s allegations claim that the school authority failed to supervise and know her son’s whereabouts. Due to the claims, she wanted compensation for Michael’s medical expenses, damage to the boy’s discomfort, and compensation for the emotional trauma she suffered on seeing the son’s injuries in the hospital.
Negligence in education includes injuries a student may incur from intentional assault by a teacher or fellow learner under the school authority and failure to address class non-attendance. Other occurrences include harms a student may suffer due to unsafe equipment or the inability of a student to meet the required academic expectations according to their level of education (Bruno, 2017). The tort law requires that the plaintiffs prove injury, demonstrate the defendant’s failure to provide the necessary care, evidence of the defendant’s responsibility to care, and proof that the defendant is the cause of the plaintiff’s injury (Pantaleón-Díaz, 2018). With such evidence, the plaintiff is free to proceed with the negligence report.
Type of Action
Educational institutions, private schools, and teachers need to understand the litigation laws about negligence in education. By understanding the plaintiff’s allegations and requirements to prove a legal case against failure, teachers and schools can find ways of defending against the plaintiff’s claims. In most cases, learning institutions settle negligence cases outside the courtroom by compensating victims once there is proof of slackness. A standard action is warning the inattentive party to be more observant, and severe punishments may involve contract termination leading to unemployment. Under tort laws, once the defendant is found guilty, they are liable for the plaintiff’s injury or death which requires compensation according to the damages incurred (Chamallas, 2018). In cases where the negligence allegations reach the courtroom, the judges are responsible for proclaiming a ruling. This will vary according to the degree of carelessness and the outcome of the negligence.
The California Court of Appeal made the final decision on July 21, 1977, where the court held that the school was not liable for Michael’s injuries. Plaintiff Mary Ann argued that the institution was liable for her son’s injuries because Michael had gone to school and attended regular class; therefore, they were responsible for taking precautions against students sneaking out, which led to the motor accident (Kerr et al., 2017). The court rejected the plaintiff’s allegation because the school authorities did not foresee the risk of harm.
The court referred to the Kerwin v. County of San Mateo case, where two students were involved in an accident while going home. The two boys were brothers where one fell ill and called his younger sibling to fetch him from school. The case’ plaintiff argued that the teachers were responsible for allowing a student to leave before the time leading to the misfortune. The Kerwin court also rejected the plaintiff’s argument, claiming that teachers are not responsible for students outside school as there is no foreseeable harm. This is because most students commute daily without any risk of getting hurt unless an accident occurs that is not predetermined (Justia US Law, 2021). Therefore, Michael’s case is no different from a student going behind the authority’s back as a truant where the supervisor cannot see a possibility of harm.
I respectfully agree with the reasoning and judgment of Justice Clark. I do not support the demand for civil liability on the school due to injuries sustained outside the school premises. Since the learner left voluntarily without informing the authority, the school is not liable for the student’s misconduct, which led to the accident. Furthermore, the sustained injuries involve a third party outside the school premises. It is essential to recognize the student’s mistake and acknowledge that children sometimes engage in risky activities beyond their control. The educational policy regarding negligence should allow exemptions on cases outside the learning institution’s grounds or due to a student moving beyond a teacher’s supervision area. Educators cannot follow learners around all the time, particularly children who like wandering and exploring on their own.
Teachers or schools are unlikely to face legal allegations of negligence if they occur. However, if a plaintiff successfully files a case, there must be sufficient proof to support the laxity claims where one missing piece of evidence is enough to fail the case. Educational institutions and instructors need to be conversant with the legal responsibilities that ensure students’ safety. Learners need supervision and care in classrooms, in the field, during extracurricular activities, and school excursions. Teachers must perform their duty of care by foreseeing the risk of harm, which helps avoid circumstances that may injure children. If a tutor fails in their commitment to care and a student incurs damages, the educator could face litigation measures that could cost their reputation and career.
The law on education negligence should apply to all students from preparatory classes to undergraduates because all of them need protection against foreseeable dangers. The school authorities have an obligation to be cautious and strict in supervising students, particularly the children who indulge in risky activities unknowingly. Above all, parents should guide their children on the dangers of leaving school premises before the end of classes or without permission to avoid accidents that may be fatal.
Bruno, T. (2017). Tort/negligence – Contributory negligence injury to pedestrian downed tree. North Carolina Lawyers Weekly.
Chamallas, M. (2018). Will tort law have its #me too moment? Journal of tort law, 11(1), 39-70.
Justia US Law. (2021). Kerwin v. County of San Mateo. Justia Law.
Kerr, Z., Lynall, R., Roos, K., Dalton, S., Djoko, A., & Dompier, T. (2017). Descriptive epidemiology of non–time-loss injuries in collegiate and high school student-athletes. Journal of Athletic Training, 52(5), 446-456.
LawPipe. (2021). Hoyem v. Manhattan Beach City Sch. Dist – Case Brief Summary (California). Lawpipe.com.
Marin-Guzman, D. (2020). Centers run negligence risk by staying open: Children. The Australian Financial Review. Web.
Pantaleón-Díaz, M. (2018). Children’s liability in negligence. Journal of European Tort Law, 9(1), 25-53.
- Hoyem v. Manhattan Beach City School District (1977) Civ. 48605
- Kerwin v. Jefferson Elementary School District (1959) No. 18106