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Monday, June 17, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Testing Urination Fault Won’t Fall to District

(CN) - A school district is not liable to a student who wet himself after teachers tried to block him from using the restroom during a test, the Mississippi Court of Appeals ruled.

Jonathan Taylor Harris was a seventh grader taking the Mississippi Curriculum Test (MCT) in 2007 at Clinton Junior High School when he asked to use the restroom.

Corey Schneider and Kevin Daniels, teachers administering the test, twice refused Harris permission and then relented on the third try. Harris urinated on himself in front of his classmates, however, as he was leaving the room.

His parents, Anthony and Susan Harris, sued the Clinton Public School District board of trustees and several employees under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act for negligence and infliction of emotional distress.

The school district claimed it was immune under the law since the refusal to let Harris use the restroom qualified as discretionary actions by the teachers.

Both a Hinds County judge and a circuit court judge agreed, leading the Harrises to claim on appeal that the restroom request was a "student emergency," not a discretionary matter.

A three-judge appellate panel likewise sided with the district last week.

"While the district was required to establish a student-testing plan for administration of the MCT, the testing-security procedures of the plan were left to the discretion of the district employees, particularly the assigned test proctor and administrator," Presiding Judge T. Kenneth Griffis wrote for the panel.

"While the plan established a protocol for student emergencies that involved restroom requests by the students, neither the plan nor the Mississippi Department of Education automatically required the proctor to allow a student to use the bathroom at a specific time or location," Griffis added.

The panel also cited the test administrator's need to protect the integrity of the test and its results.

"If a different result were reached, school officials, in fear of a lawsuit, would be unable to discipline students and maintain order because they would have to agree to every student's request and would not be allowed to determine the legitimacy of a student's request," Griffis wrote.

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