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

Yes, Abusive Teachers Are a School Liability

(CN) - A school district can be held liable for the hiring and improper supervision of staff prone to abusing students, the California Supreme Court ruled.

"Ample case authority establishes that school personnel owe students under their supervision a protective duty of ordinary care, for breach of which the school district may be held vicariously liable," Justice Kathryn Werdegar wrote for the unanimous court.

The 2007 lawsuit against the William S. Hart Union High School District in Southern California claimed guidance counselor Roselyn Hubbell sexually abused a 15-year-old student at Golden Valley High School over an eight-month period.

On Thursday the California Supreme Court rejected the district's argument that principals and administrators only have to oversee the school's "overall functioning" and "have no special relationship with any particular student."

"Responsibility for the safety of public school students is not borne solely by instructional personnel," Werdegar wrote.

Administrators "also have the responsibility of taking reasonable measures to guard pupils against harassment and abuse from foreseeable sources, including any teachers or counselors they know or have reason to know are prone to such abuse," she added.

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