Can You Sue a School District for Emotional Distress - morgan and morgan
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Can You Sue a School District for Emotional Distress?

Can You Sue a School District for Emotional Distress?

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Can You Sue a School District for Emotional Distress?

Any school district or school can be held legally liable for emotional distress if they are responsible for victimizing students or staff. Parents have the right to feel that their kids are being protected and treated with respect when they are under the supervision of a school district. When that trust is violated, you might ask the question, "can you sue a school district for emotional distress," and the answer is yes. It can be disturbing to learn that your child has been neglected, hurt, or abused in your absence, particularly if the school district does not take your concerns seriously.

No teacher, administrator, or coach has the right to mistreat your child and get away with it. If you've tried unsuccessfully to address problematic issues with your school district, now is the time to contact one of our personal injury lawyers to learn what legal avenues are available to you and your child. Similarly, suppose you are a staff member who has been illegally terminated or have other serious issues with your employment at your school district. In that case, our employment lawyers are ready to help you protect your rights and get the compensation you deserve.

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FAQ

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  • How can you sue a school?

    Suing schools is a complex process, and every state has laws that govern the circumstances under which you can sue a school. This is because public schools receive government funding which makes them immune from certain types of lawsuits. These are known as sovereign immunity rules, and they protect public schools and their employees because they are considered government entities.

    For example, in Florida, you can sue if the injury was caused by negligence or a wrongful act or omission. Suppose your child was being threatened by another student regularly, and your child brought this to the attention of school officials. Yet, nothing was done, and one day the bully beats your child up. In this case, you may be able to sue because of omission. It all depends on where you live and the circumstances of the case.

    In all states, mandated complaint processes must be strictly adhered to for a successful legal claim. That's why it's crucial to hire a lawyer familiar with educational, legal cases. For example, in most states, you must start the complaint process with the school district itself and submit a formal written complaint with your legal theories that you will present in court should the complaint escalate. If you don't have all your ducks in a row and later discover a better argument, it won't be legally admissible.

    It's possible that your claim will be outright rejected by default if you're missing any crucial elements. Speaking with an attorney prior to proceeding with a legal claim is in your best interests for a successful outcome. If you submit a successful claim, the school district could award you compensation, and disciplinary action may be taken against the offending parties. Because government entities enjoy so much protection, claims are often rejected. It takes an expert to guide you through all the hoops.

  • Can you sue a private or independent school for emotional distress?

    Since a private or independent school is less likely to receive government funding, the barrier is not as high as a public school. While a private school does not have the same amount of government oversight, they still have the same duty of care that a public school has to make sure the students are safe and the staff doesn't cause undue harm to members of the student body. The reasons to sue a private or independent school are usually the same reasons one might want to sue a public school, but there are less stringent barriers here.

  • What kind of attorney do I need to sue a school district?

    The best choice of an attorney who can take on a school district will be well-versed in educational law and child personal injury law. Suing a public institution protected by sovereign immunity is not an easy task. In fact, in many instances, state laws will side with the school district. It's extremely common for an attorney unfamiliar with these kinds of cases to make a mistake in the procedural process. Errors like these will result in your case being dismissed before even being heard. It literally pays to hire the right kind of attorney when it comes to getting justice for your child.

  • Can parents sue a school district for emotional distress?

    Most cases against school districts are, in fact, initiated by parents because they have exhausted all other means of addressing the problem. Currently, there are cases where parents are suing school boards for not protecting their children from Covid-19. It's a hot topic with parents on both sides of the argument, pro and anti-mask. Waukesha and Fall Creek parents filed federal lawsuits because they claimed their children contracted the virus because the schools were not following Covid-19 guidance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. However, they have quite the uphill battle because all of this is new territory.

    Four parents in Georgia are suing their school boards because the lack of mask mandates makes it unsafe for their children with disabilities to attend school in person. The parents claim that it's a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In all of these cases, sovereign immunity will likely be the biggest roadblock for success. The parents are being represented by lawyers because of the layers of complexity in these types of cases.

  • Can you sue a school district if they don't stop bullying?

    According to the website stopbullying.gov, most state laws, policies, and regulations require districts and schools to have a bullying policy. Furthermore, they're required to have procedures to follow during investigation and responses for bullying. School districts might be liable if something an administrator or teacher said was the source of how the bullying began. When authority figures show other students it's okay to pick on a student by degrading or harassing them in public, they could be held liable for starting the bullying. 

    The effects of bullying have become more commonly known in recent years. Bullying can cause children to become depressed, have anxiety, and can even lead to suicide or other forms of violence. You may wonder, can you sue a school district for emotional distress from bullying. The answer is yes. When teachers or administrators witness bullying and do nothing about it, it could be viewed as condoning it, which gives the bully even more power to oppress. Children should be treated equally while at school, and that means protected equally.

  • Can I sue the school district for a teacher's abuse or harassment of my child?

    We've all heard about the devastating impact bullying can have on the development of children, but what if the bully is a teacher or other school staff in charge of your child? Perhaps you've heard stories of the coach that calls a child a sissy because they're not good at athletics or the emotional abuse of an autistic child. And perhaps the worst, the sexualization of a child by adult school staff. You may consider bringing a lawsuit against the individual. Still, you have a far better chance of collecting a substantial amount if you go after the school district. 

    Under federal law, Title IX, any educational program that receives federal funding may not discriminate on the basis of sex. Since sexual harassment can be considered discrimination, you may have the makings of a successful case. However, the bar is very high for cases based on Title IX. To win damages for sexual harassment, you and your lawyer must show the following:

    • The school district knew about their employee abusing your child
    • The school district had the power to take corrective action
    • The school district did so little about the misconduct that the response can be considered deliberate indifference

    Children are further protected under the federal Civil Rights Act for any violation of their constitutional rights to equal protection. No teacher or school staff can harass or abuse your child because of their sex, disability, race, or national origin. And in some states' constitutions, civil rights protections may even be more substantial than federal law.

  • Can punishment at school be considered abuse?

    Most states have outlawed the use of corporal punishment, which is punishment meant to cause a student physical pain. However, many states allow physical intervention under some circumstances, like breaking up a fight or preventing property damage. Still, suppose a school employee uses excessive force and causes severe injuries to your child. In that case, you may be able to be compensated through a civil lawsuit.

  • Can I sue for negligent hiring?

    Yes, if your child was harmed because school officials hired an employee with a history of sexual misconduct or other forms of abuse, they could be considered negligent in their duties to protect your child. If the employee later is found to be sexually harassing or abusing students, that could be regarded as negligent supervision.

  • Why hire Morgan & Morgan personal injury lawyers?

    Every child has the right to feel safe and secure at school, and parents have the right to feel their child won't be harassed or abused by school staff or other students. We have lawyers who are experts in personal injury, educational, and civil rights law and can give you legal advice on proceeding with your claim. Our lawyers can identify which state and federal laws address your specific situation and pinpoint grounds for a lawsuit. Furthermore, we can determine the appropriate person or institution to sue. Remember, it is critical that the proper steps are taken when proceeding with this kind of lawsuit. The odds are stacked against you when it comes to suing schools protected by sovereign immunity rules, and the stakes couldn't be higher. 

    When it comes to your child's emotional and physical well-being, don't take chances with lawyers unfamiliar with suing school districts for emotional distress. Most school districts are aware of litigation risks and may already have powerful lawyers working for them. That's why size matters. Morgan & Morgan is one of the largest law firms in the nation, and we have extensive resources at our disposal to help you with your case. Our lawyers are well known as formidable fighters for justice, and once we take a case, we don't back down until justice is served. Contact us today for a free case evaluation to see what we can do for you.

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