School Cases in court. I’m going to highlight a few stories that have resonated with me over the last few months. I recently attended a safety discussion at my daughter’s school. This discussion once completed brought a few other schools names and how safety played a big role along with the trust we put into the education system to keep our children safe. The amount of responsibility we put onto this institution these teachers without really realizing it. Loco Parentis meaning the teachers take the place of the parent. Now would a teacher dive in front of a bus to save your child maybe but not likely however this does mean the teacher would protect the child from bullies, assist in making the right decisions, properly assisting them with risky manouvers, etc. They are in place of a parent at school or institutional setting, looking out for the best interest of the child, your child.
June 22, 1981
Myers v Peel Country Board of Education, Ontario
Erindale Secondary School grades 9, 10, 11, 12 is part of the Peel District School board. There had been a number of the students in the gym during the regularly scheduled physical education class, there was an adjacent room setup for gymnastics and the kids in this room were trained specifically for gymnastics using the equipment that was setup. There usual teacher was away sick and the substitute teacher in the main room and approx 40 students at the peak time with class crossovers. One student trained in Gymnastics asked if his friend – not trained in gymnastics could play in this specialized room. There was approx 8 kids in this unsupervised room training gymnastics maneuvers for grade marking. The student un-trained proceeds to try out a gymnastics tactic on the rings and – succeeded. Then he tried an exceptionally hard backflip dismount and landed improperly – inadequate mats, inadequate spotters and inadequate supervision ensued. Due to the added disadvantage of poor training he was severely injured and as a result became a quadriplegic by a broken neck. There was no teacher present nor did the friend teach the kid what he needed to learn – in this short amount of time – to follow through with this exercise properly and safely. The trained friend didn’t know what the un-trained friend was about to try out so he couldn’t a) warn the kid and b) provide proper spotting.
During the court hearing it was discussed that the trained student was 20% liable and the un-trained now severely disabled student was 80% liable. This is showing ownership is put on the person who committed the fault- torts-Negligence; tort meaning suing for personal damages and negligence meaning no deliberate action but failed to act as a reasonable person. There was also discussion about the mats used – were these significant to soften the landing and prevent the injury, no. If a teacher/supervisor had been in the room would this have stopped the injury, possibly by stopping the tactic move. The discussion of ‘prudent parent’ also was disected – let’s walk through this, if a parent was in the gym and their son, knowing they haven’t been trained for this manouver wanted to test it the parent would likely say ‘no’ and rovide the proper spotters, trainers and insight into this more diligently.
In the end the school was not found liable but the students appellants were found at fault.
I would accordingly allow the appeal with costs to the appellant in this Court and in the Court of Appeal, and restore the judgment at trial, leaving intact the finding of contributory negligence against the appellant, which is well supported in the evidence, the apportionment of damages, and the disposition of costs at trial.
April 25, 2008
R vs A.M, Ontario
St. Patrick’s Catholic High located in Sarnia, Ontario. This High School’s principal at the time had an agreement with local police to bring in drug sniffing dogs at random and convenient to the police service to search the school. The school had been known to have drug problems on the school property as well as off school property. This intuition asks the question that the principal was onto something. The police did not have any knowledge of drugs being on the school at the time of the unscheduled search.
Here’s how this story went…all kids are in class, some have left their backpacks in the gym lined up along the wall. When the police showed up one random day – the principal at the time made an announcement that they were conducting a random police investigation and students should remain in their classrooms. The police started throughout the school ending up in the gym and the sniffer dog ‘chief’ immediately indicated to a backpack. The dog handler gave said backpack to another police officer and it was searched to find:
including five bags of marijuana, a tin box containing a further five bags of marijuana, a bag containing approximately ten magic mushrooms (psilocybin), a bag containing a pipe, a lighter, rolling papers and a roach clip. A.M.’s wallet, containing his identification, was in the backpack. A.M. was charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking marijuana and possession of psilocybin (mushrooms)
The argument from the schools side is they were not involved in the investigation besides this announcement that was made to keep students inside the classrooms. The total investigation took approx 1-2 hours. This was during class time during the day at the school.
This A.M. Student was then charged. Could this have been handled another way? What about if the principal found this marijuana and drugs would it then be his/the principal’s responsibility to call the parents and have a meeting to review these items? Involve the police? What if another student found the drugs and ratted the kid out to the authorities? A.M. Student was brazen enough to bring his backpack to school full of drugs and his ID – good thing he had this on him? Then proceeded to leave this in the school gym unattended.
If your child is attending this Catholic school would you feel like this is an invasion of their privacy? Or all kids privacy? OR would it be searching for the few that may get caught keeping the rest of the student population safe from drug dealers in the school? You know a few innocent kids are made to feel uncomfortable for the whole of the population to be safe and not have drugs at the ready!
I think he shouldn’t have left his bag unattended – like ever! this kid made a decision to bring illegal drugs into a school, a government institution with intention to sell and use – he had papers, roach clip and lighter with the rest of his stash.
In the end it was concluded that the principle in good faith acted in the best interest of the school and under the convenient timing of the police for the search. And the charges stood against AM with posession and trafficking on school property.
December 3, 1993
Bain v. Calgary Board of Education et al, Calgary
Twenty five years ago this case was decided in the Court…that puts me right at the same age as the students in this story at the time this story made it to Court…where were you in 1993 let’s get some perspective around this story. in 1987, A grade 11 teacher took 5 students on a forestry trip. The students convinced the teacher to allow them to climb a mountain. The teacher at time told them to ‘be back before dark’ the student with friends proceeded to trek up the mountain (not in the plans and in an unfamiliar area) and one student fell causing brain injury. The teacher-student relationship was breached when the teacher failed to accompany the students and supervise their endeavour. The teacher was 75% to blame and the student was 25% to blame.
This is interesting as I remmber being 16 and supervision by teachers wasn’t as engaged as it is today. Kids were still scene and not heard. Teachers weren’t as fully trained and acting as a parent in the school institutional capacity as today.
This student and his family were compensated almost 6 years after the incident, why would this take so long…the damages far outweighed the question surrounding the case.
The next time you have to sign a form/waiver for your child to attend an ‘off site’ event like a Calgary camp and sign a form/waiver to absolve the entity like the City of Calgary or Winsport or a recreation facility – sign it – don’t sign it this waiver could potentially be held up in court and scrutinized in all these cases the fault or negligence was shared. Loco Parentis is one of the key deciding factors. When a teacher at the school is put into the position of caring for and supporting our kids – their students, when they the teachers do not have children of their own is an entirely different position for the teacher if they have kids. One will never know the feeling of having the utmost guttural sense of protection of this small person when it’s not their own. We truely believe as parents that these teachers will do whatever is necessary to keep our kids safe and we are most grateful for this. Thank you!
Thanks for listening to the show today, for those of you who have kids, neices, nephews and have attended an extra curricular activity and had to sign a waiver instead of dismissing this pay attention to what rights you are potentially signing away. Also, give that teacher an extra pat on the back to taking care of your small person in your absense. If you have a story about a Calgary School that you want to share with me please do so and send me a note/email or text to Valerie@ValerieMoss.ca and let me know.
The intro and outro for this episode is recorded by London Moss, the theme music is Tascam 40 by Jason Schnell and some GarageBand loops I’ve chosen today are:
- School Bell Ringing
- 80s Classic Lead Synth
- Rose Slow Jam
- Dogs Barking
- Dogs Wine 01
- Clapping Crowd Studio 01