What School Safety Really Means Today

When you think of school safety, it's only natural to think about the last school shooting you heard on the news. However, what doesn't make the headlines has a far bigger impact on school safety. Shootings are actually on the decline, and more children die in bicycle accidents or pool drownings each year. Meanwhile, children continue to be injured and parents continue to bring lawsuits over daily hazards that could have been prevented with the right tools.

Types of School Safety Hazards

No matter what grade levels your school has, accidents and injuries are going to be common when you're dealing with children. These accidents fall into a number of legal categories.Student Receiving a Band-aid from a Teacher

  • Slip and falls include things like icy or cracked sidewalks or a wire or hose left stretched across a walkway.
  • Fighting, bullying, or other altercations can lead to cuts, bruises, or more serious injuries.
  • Sports and recess injuries can still create liability for the school even though there's a higher level of accepted risk associated with athletics.
  • Allergies and medical illnesses bring up questions of whether the school could have taken preventive precautions and whether it responded appropriately to allow the child to receive prompt medical attention.

Other injuries might occur through horseplay, broken furniture, improper maintenance, or other causes.

Reasons for School Safety Lawsuits

No reasonable person will ever argue that a school can stop all injuries. But an angry parent looking for answers will often be able to find a lawyer who can create a legal argument for why the school should be held liable. And if you care about your students, you will probably be asking yourself if there's more you could have done to prevent an injury from happening on your watch.

There are three common areas where blame might be placed on a school or its staff following a safety incident.

Lack of Supervision

Supervision can break down in two ways. First, you might not have a proper plan to ensure that hallways, student parking lots, and other non-classroom areas are monitored at the appropriate times. Second, a teacher may need to step out of their classroom or other assigned area to handle an emergency leaving those students unsupervised.

If a student is injured while unsupervised, the question your school will be forced to answer is would the injury have happened if a responsible adult was present.

Lack of Communication

Communication is the key to preventing or mitigating school safety incidents. If a staff member sees a potential intruder, they must be able to quickly call for a lockdown and a response from security. If a teacher happens upon a large fight they can't stop on their own, they shouldn't have to make the choice between going for help or staying to try to prevent more students from becoming involved.

No matter how well developed and funded your safety plans were, you could still be liable if you weren't able to communicate the need to put them into action.

Poor Response Time

Whether there is an imminent threat of injury or a student already needs medical attention, seconds could make the difference in preventing further harm. Calling for help, getting additional staff members on scene, or having an administrator evaluate the need for a lockdown or evacuation all create the potential for delays.

When it comes to safety, slow and steady does not win the race, but it could lose a lawsuit.

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