School Safety Law Blog – News and Information for School Safety
Bernard James teaches courses in Civil Rights, Federalism, Individual Rights, Education Law, State Constitutional Law and Introduction to American Law. Follow this blog to know more about school safety blog.
• In Georgia, the United States Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court ruling that the search of a student’s cell phone without a warrant by school officials did not violate the Fourth Amendment. The lower court held that, “a school official’s search of a student’s cell phone on school property and during the school day still fits within the framework announced in T.L.O.” [Jackson v. McCurry]
• In Maryland, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland upheld the adjudication of a student for gun possession on campus after the search of a school resource officer discovered the weapon. The court ruled that the student’s behavior, the odor of marijuana, and the SRO’s knowledge of the student’s previous possession of marijuana provided probable cause to search and arrest him. The court refused to decide whether the lower standard of reasonable suspicion under New Jersey v. T.L.O., (469 U.S. 325 (1985)) applied to the searches by school resource officers. [Xavier Matthews v. State of Maryland]
• In North Carolina, the Court of Appeals of North Carolina upheld the adjudication of a student for disorderly conduct after being found leaving school during the school day without permission by a school resource officer. The court held that directing abusive and profane language at a police officer in a boisterous manner and resisting the commands of the SRO supported an inference that such language could likely provoke retaliation, and thereby cause a breach of peace. The use of profane language was not protected by the First Amendment in all circumstances. [In The Matter of: A.R.-V.]
In Pennsylvania, the United States District Court ruled that parents of a disabled child could not bring a lawsuit against a school district for releasing information about the disability for a juvenile delinquency proceeding. The court held that neither FERPA nor HIPAA create a private right of action, the Privacy Act of 1974 does not apply to state or municipal agencies, and IDEA provides for administrative procedures to enforce the rights it created which must be exhausted before a law suit can be filed. (Howard v. Chester County Office of Juvenile Probation and Parole).
In California, the California Court of Appeal affirmed the probation condition prohibiting a student from possessing a smart phone after he was suspended and adjudicated for taking a video of a female classmate while using the toilet and posting it on the Internet. The court ruled that the prohibition did not violate his rights because less sophisticated means of communication were still available to him, such as a non-smart cell phone, a landline phone, the mail, or in-person contact. The ban made it easier for school officials and the probation department to detect and supervise the student. (In re N.T.)
• In Vermont, the Supreme Court ruled that educators were not liable after a student committed suicide as a result of being assaulted by his teammates on the school football team. The court held that schools owe students a duty of ordinary care and could not be held liable for injuries that a reasonable person could not have foreseen or anticipated. The school’s complete lack of notice of a pattern of hazing by team members was determinative. (Stopford v. Milton Town School District)
• In Ohio, the United States Court of Appeals ruled that the use of a body sock on a special needs student who fell while in body sock, injuring his front teeth, constituted a “seizure” for purposes of an excessive force claim. Nevertheless, the court held that the teacher did not violate the rights of the student because the sock was designed specifically as a therapeutic tool and was not excessive under the circumstances.
• In New York, the Supreme Court held that a school did not breach the special duty owed to a student who was struck by an automobile while crossing the street leaving school. The court ruled that the school could not be liable when an accident occurs so quickly that even the most intense supervision could not have prevented it. The crossing guard told the student not to cross the street at the unsafe location and pointed student to the nearest crosswalk. But the student crossed the street in the middle of the block where there was no intersection or crosswalk and no traffic device affording her right-of-way. (K.A. v. City of New York)
• In California, the California Court of Appeal ruled that school officials may search the cell phone of a student when they have a reasonable belief that school rules have been violated. The court affirmed the trial court ruling that the student’s cell phone was lawfully seized and searched when video recordings of female students in the locker room were posted on the Internet. (In re Adrian O)
• In Alabama, the Supreme Court of Alabama held that state law does not make a school board or its members an arm of the state for purposes of Eleventh Amendment immunity for violating the federal civil rights of students. The court ruled that while board members were entitled to qualified immunity in their individual capacities from the federal civil rights claim, they are not immune in their official capacity from lawsuits challenging school policies under federal law. Parents of the student filed an excessive force lawsuit after a teacher assaulted their child. (Ex parte Wilcox County Board of Education)
• In California, the California Court of Appeal ruled that state law protects a school district from liability for injuries resulting from the negligence of other persons or organizations using school facilities. The court affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit by a parent who suffered serious injuries when he fell off an inflatable slide while attending a carnival held at the school sponsored by a community group and the parent-teacher association (PTA). (Grossman v. Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District)
• In Indiana, the Court of Appeals of Indiana ruled that school officials are not entitled to immunity under state law in a wrongful-death lawsuit. The court reversed a ruling by the trial court that dismissed a case involving a student who left school in mid-day and was murdered. Parents argued that the school was liable for failing to properly supervise and monitor their child. The appellate court held that the school could be liable if it was aware of the student’s truancy and his status as a runaway, and failed to supervise him properly. (Murray v. Indianapolis Public Schools)
In Louisiana, the Court of Appeal of Louisiana held that schools have a duty to provide reasonable, competent supervision appropriate to the age of the students. The court reversed the dismissal of a lawsuit by parents of a kindergartner who fractured her arm during recess on the playground. The court ruled that the central question in supervision cases is whether the supervision provided is reasonable considering the age of the children and the attendant circumstances, and whether the accident/incident could have been prevented. (Robinson v. St. John the Baptist Parish School Board).
In California, the California Court of Appeal held that schools have a duty to supervise the conduct of the children on the school grounds and to enforce those rules necessary to their protection. The court reversed the dismissal of a lawsuit by parents of a middle-school student who was sexually abused by a teacher with a history of sexual battery accusations. The court reasoned that liability could be based on the fact that educators failed to adequately supervise the teacher and failed to follow school policy. (C.A. v. Los Angeles Unified School District).
In Florida, Polk County Public Schools Superintendent announced Tuesday that the district will continue to place armed guardians and school resource officers in the district’s 150 schools, rather than arm teachers. Current Florida law allows the arming of school staff other than classroom teachers. The Florida Senate passed a bill (SB 7030) proposing an amendment to allow for the arming of teachers in the state.
In Texas, the Coppell Independent School District is implementing multiple new safety and security measures. Among the changes are measures that encourage parents to be aware and involved in their students’ school safety experience.
In Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that negligence by school officials that renders the campus unsafe fall within the exception to governmental immunity. The school was found liable for injuries to a student participating in a relay race during gym class who tripped and fell, causing him to propel into the wall at the end of the gym. (Brewington for Brewington v. City of Philadelphia)
In New York, the New York Supreme Court ruled that schools may be held liable for injuries related to the absence of adequate supervision. Liability for injuries to a student beaten on a school bus would be appropriate if the perpetrator’s disciplinary record placed the school on notice. The court held that the standard for determining whether a school has breached its duty is to compare the school’s supervision and protection to that of a parent of ordinary prudence placed in the same situation and armed with the same information. (Palopoli v. Sewanhaka Central High School District)
In Indiana, the Board of Education for the Clark-Pleasant Community School Corporation is creating its own police department, which will supplement the school resource officers already in place. The district plans to spend about $650,000 annually on salary and benefits for the school’s officers, as well as the new director and an administrative assistant.
In Michigan, the U. S. District Court held that parents of a seven-year-old child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder were entitled to sue a school resource officer and the City for placing the child in handcuffs in response to a disability-induced episode. The court held that liability is appropriate when police fail to train its officers on appropriately interacting with juveniles who may have a disability. Intentional discrimination may be inferred from the likelihood that inadequate training will result in a violation of federally protected rights. (McCadden v. City of Flint)
In Massachusetts, the United States District Court held that police had probable cause to arrest a student who posted threatening messages using a school computer. Massachusetts law makes it a crime to “communicate… a threat thereby causing either the evacuation or serious disruption of a school… or serious public inconvenience or alarm.” Massachusetts Rev. Stat. 269, § 14. The court reasoned that police could reasonably have inferred that an attack would take place at the high school, since the post appeared to be directed toward fellow students. (D’Ambrosio v. City of Methuen)
In New York, the New York Supreme Court ruled that parents may sue a school district for injuries to their child from an attack by fellow students on a school bus. The court held that schools are under a duty to supervise students and can be held liable for foreseeable injuries related to the absence of adequate supervision. The court reasoned that a school is bound to take energetic steps to intervene and that a school bus company owes the same duty to the students. (Williams v. Student Bus Company, Inc.)
In Utah, the Salt Lake City Police Department released a Report by the International Association of Police Chiefs that recommends that rifles be locked in a safe inside schools for easier access by school resource officers in the case of an emergency.
• In Tennessee, the U.S. District Court held that a school district can be liable for failing to protect students from danger when officials fail to intervene to eliminate a dangerous condition. The court reasoned that the crash of a school bus, in which six students were killed, was connected to the principal’s failure to act in response to multiple complaints that the bus driver drove his school bus in a dangerous fashion. (M.S . by Covington v. Hamilton Cty. Dep’t of Education).
• In New York, the New York Supreme Court held that restrictions limiting a father’s access to school were valid. The court ruled that the restrictions were rationally related to the in loco parentis authority of the school. The father was a Level III sex offender convicted of rape against a juvenile, which meant that he posed the highest possible risk. The restrictions were not a blanket prohibition from entering school but required prior notice and that the father be accompanied by school safety agent. (Lujan v. Carranza).
• In Michigan, school officials at Mattawan High School are implementing a new policy of searching students found loitering in bathrooms as a means to crack down on e-cigarette use, also known as vaping. A letter sent to parents gave notice of the intent of educators to send to the administrative office to be searched students who congregate and loiter in the bathroom or multiple students who gather in a closed bathroom stall.
• In Indiana, the Board of Education for the Perry Central Community School Corporation voted to create an in-house, school-based police department. The goal of the policy is to make the school-based officer more effective in keeping the campus safe, better trained on school law enforcement, and a consistent presence on campus to build rapport with the students.
• In New York, the City of Poughkeepsie plans to create a community policing unit and implement a school resource officer program in the schools. The police chief believes that the addition of a school resource officer and a community policing unit will help build better connections in the community.
• In Florida, parents of students killed and injured in the 2018 shooting at the Broward County Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have filed more than 20 lawsuits, alleging negligence by the Broward Sheriff’s Office and the School Board.
• In Montana, the legislature endorsed a new policy to allow rural schools to independently hire an armed school marshal and set training standards. Law enforcement officers around the state do not believe the school marshals will be able to react adequately to a school crisis. The Governor has not said whether he will sign the bill.
• In Oklahoma, the Senate has passed a proposal that allows school districts to authorize personnel to carry a handgun on school property. House Bill 2336, approved by the house in March 2019, now goes to the Governor. Under the provisions of the legislation, school employees would be required to obtain a valid armed security guard license or hold a valid reserve peace officer certification.
In Pennsylvania, school resource officers in the Erie School District will begin carrying Tasers in schools after receiving training. Under current policy, the Tasers will be used on intruders who enter school buildings and cause disturbances at events. Policy does not allow use on students except in an extreme case.
In Connecticut, the Connecticut State Police are training police and educators to train parents on the dangers of social media. The curriculum focuses on the risks of certain online apps and how keep juveniles safe online. The list of troublesome apps includes apps like Whisper, Sarahah, Burn Book, Hot or Not, Kik, House Party, TikTok, Fortnite, Minecraft, Roblox, Bumble, Grindr, Tinder, and Hidden Calculator.
In New York, a new agreement between the Lockport City School District and the City of Lockport will extend the SRO program into a 12-month job and increase funding to provide another officer. The school board approved the changes to allow the officers to more effectively build relationships and participate in school sponsored events.
In Ohio, school police and educators in southwest Ohio are receiving training on how to best combat the epidemic of vaping by students. The training program was created by two students from the Butler Technology and Career Development School. It includes advice such as watching for students who frequently complaining about headaches (a vaping withdrawal symptom), and extending prevention programs to elementary schools where children are at risk of flavored, nicotine-based inhalants.