As a child gets older, they will not spend all of their time with one or both of their parents. Adults at day cares, schools, and extracurricular activities will need to supervise children appropriately for the situation. If they fail to take reasonable steps to protect a child’s safety, serious injuries can occur. Parents can sue entities or individuals if their negligent supervision caused an accident involving a child.
There is no clear rule for what negligent supervision means in any given context. Different students have different needs, and activities throughout the day at a school or a day care may vary in their level of risk and thus the level of supervision required. Some key factors to bear in mind when determining how this standard may apply in a certain case include the age and experience of the child, the type of activity in which the injuries occurred, and whether the injuries resulted (at least in part) from external factors that could not have been prevented.
Negligent Supervision During Ordinary School Activities
Going to class and walking around a school’s property usually do not pose serious risks. Some exceptions include situations that involve bullying or assault by one or more students against another student. Schools and day cares need to not only supervise the situation but also address any safety risks that arise. They must intervene to stop bullying and take stronger action, such as possibly calling the police, if their initial response does not resolve the problem.
Schools and day cares also need to protect students from the possibility of harm or abduction by adults. For example, a parent involved in a child custody dispute may try to abduct the child at issue from a school. If the school is aware of this risk, it should take measures to prevent the abduction.
Negligent Supervision Outside the Classroom
Sports activities pose some of the greatest risks to child safety and thus may require more supervision. The experience level of a child playing a particular sport, such as baseball or football, may dictate the level of supervision required. If a child has already played baseball for several years, for example, they will understand the hazards posed by the ball more clearly than a child who has never played baseball before.
Another situation in which children are often hurt is a field trip, such as a group hike. If children are unfamiliar with the terrain or any wildlife that they encounter, they may need guidance from a school employee to help them understand how to handle the situation. If children from a small town are taken to a large city to see a cultural attraction, they may need assistance in dealing with heavy traffic and other unfamiliar risks in the urban environment. However, liability may not arise if a child ignores the instructions of school employees and engages in risky behavior against which they were warned.
There are some situations in which school employees could not have prevented an accident. For example, a drunk driver might run a red light and crash into a school bus during a field trip. This is not a situation that the bus driver or the school could have been expected to avoid. When this type of accident happens, parents of injured children probably will be limited to bringing a claim against the driver who was responsible.