Articles Posted in Education Law

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At issue before the Supreme Court in this case was a Superior Court's grant of summary judgment to defendants, Fairwinds Church and Fairwinds Christian School (collectively, “Fairwinds”), in an action brought by former student Kimberly Hecksher under the Child Victim‟s Act. Hecksher sued Fairwinds under the Act, arguing that Fairwinds, a small, religious school, was grossly negligent for failing to prevent sexual abuse by Ed Sterling (her foster father and her teacher at Fairwinds), that occurred while she was a student. Hecksher alleged that Sterling's wife and fellow-Fairwinds employee, Sandy Sterling, observed Sterling abusing Hecksher on school property, and that Sandy's knowledge of and tortious failure to report the abuse should have been imputed to Fairwinds. Hecksher also argued that Fairwinds was grossly negligent for failing to have a sexual abuse prevention policy in place and for not responding to red flags that Sterling posed a serious risk to Fairwinds students. The Supreme Court disagreed with the Superior Court's grant of summary judgment, finding several instances where reasonable jurors could have found differently than did the Superior Court. The Supreme Court therefore concluded material issues of fact remained, specifically as to whether Sandy's knowledge and conduct could be imputed to Fairwinds, and whether Fairwinds was grossly negligent for failing to have any sexual abuse prevention and detection policies in place and for failing to act on red flags that Sterling posed a serious risk to female students. Accordingly, the grant of summary judgment was reversed and the case remanded for trial. View "Hecksher v. Fairwinds Baptist Church, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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After meeting with a high-school guidance counselor, a teenaged student said he was feeling alone and unloved, and had attempted suicide. The Counselor talked with the student for four hours; at the end of the discussion, the counselor felt the student no longer posed a threat to himself and sent him back to class. The school did not notify the student's parents of his statements or acts. After the student went home that day, he killed himself. The student's family sued the school district for wrongful death. The district court granted the district summary judgment, finding no duty to the student, and no wrongful act under the wrongful death statute. Plaintiffs appealed, asserting a common law duty based on the special relationship between a school and its students. The Supreme Court found no merit to plaintiffs' appeal except for a negligence per se claim. The alleged violations of the State Department of Education’s and the School District’s mandatory requirements to notify a parent or guardian of the student’s crisis situation state, in the Court's view, a claim of negligence per se. Accordingly, the judgment of the Superior Court was reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Rogers, et al. v. The Christina School District, et al." on Justia Law

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A vice principal of an elementary school asked a Delaware State Trooper to come to the school give a talk about bullying to four or five fifth grade students who were under “in-school suspension.” The next day, the principal was told that there had been a bullying incident involving an autistic student whose money had been taken from him on the school bus by "AB." The principal told AB’s mother about the incident, and asked her permission to have the officer talk to AB. AB’s mother consented. The officer arrived and was told what happened. The principal and officer went to a room where AB was waiting. The principal was called away, leaving the officer alone with AB. The officer got AB to admit that he had the money (one dollar), but AB claimed that another student had taken the money. AB said that he did not know that other student’s name, but that the student was seated with AB on the school bus. Without discussing the matter with the principal, the officer followed up on AB’s claim despite being virtually certain that AB was the perpetrator. The officer obtained the bus seating chart, found AB's seat-mate, brought the two students together and questioned that student in the same manner as AB. According to the other child, the officer used a mean voice and told him 11 or 12 times that he had the authority to arrest the children and place them in jail if they did not tell the truth. AB finally admitted to taking the money from the autistic student. When he got home from school, the seat-mate told his mother what had happened. The child withdrew from school and was home schooled for the rest of that school year. The mother filed suit on her son’s behalf, as well as individually, against the Cape Henlopen School District, the Board of Education of Cape Henlopen School District, the principal, the State, the Department of Safety and Homeland Security, the Division of the Delaware State Police, and the officer, Trooper Pritchett (collectively, Pritchett). Charges against all but the officer were eventually settled or dismissed; Pritchett successfully moved for summary judgment, and this appeal followed. Viewing the record in the light most favorable to the child, the Supreme Court held that there was sufficient evidence to raise issues of material fact on all claims against the officer except a battery claim. Accordingly, the Court affirmed in part and reversed in part. View "Hunt v. Delaware" on Justia Law