Field Trips and Release Forms
You expect your child to be safe at school. Your expectations do not dissolve if he or she is on a field trip. After all, he or she is still being supervised by the school in what you assume is a safe, educational environment. But what happens if your child is injured during a school field trip? Do you seek damages from the venue where the field trip was taking place? Do you file a claim against the school for negligence? Before you seek a school negligence lawyer, you should know the limits of school liability and what your options are as a parent.
If you choose to sue the school for negligence, your legal team will need to prove the school’s liability for the accident. Ask yourself these questions:
Could the school/teacher/chaperone have anticipated the injury?
While schools are held to the standard of “in loco parentis,” meaning that they bear the responsibility of a child’s safety while he or she is in the care of the district, there are exceptions and situations that can prevent a claim against the school.
The legal definition for school negligence requires that the liable party be aware of “foreseeable injuries.” If the injury was caused by an unforeseeable or unpreventable event, then proving the school’s liability will be difficult.
Did the school/teacher/chaperone do everything in their power to prevent the injury?
If the injury was foreseeable, then the school had a legal responsibility to take preventable action. Often, the determining factor in lawsuits against schools for injuries rests on whether the foreseeable danger was ignored, or if inadequate actions were taken.
Was the injury a result of the teacher/chaperone attempting to discipline your child?
In 2002, Congress passed the Paul D. Coverdell Teacher Protection Act of 2001. This act limits the liability for teachers and school officials, and specifically grants immunity if an injury is a result of attempting to discipline or supervise students.
This doesn’t mean that school personnel can abuse your child. The act does not protect schools from grossly negligent behavior or reckless indifference, criminal acts or sexual assault.
What about permission slips?
You might think that you are unable to make a claim for school negligence since you signed a permission slip or release form, allowing your child to attend the field trip. This is not necessarily the case. Depending on the language, the legality of a permission slip can be called into question. Consult with a school negligence lawyer or personal injury attorney to see if the permission slip language in your particular case absolves the school of liability.
Accidents can happen at any time, but it’s important to hold responsible parties accountable for accidents that could have been prevented and avoided.