I am so proud of my two sons. Just the thought of them instantly brings a smile to my face. I feel all warm inside as I remember how scared I was when I brought my firstborn home. I was terrified that I would not know what to do with this precious gift. I remember rocking him and crying as I asked the Lord to please help me do right in this new life. I stressed over everything from the type of food I fed him to the diapers he wore. I was very protective. I remember their first day of school. I promise it was the hardest day of my life. I was that crazy parent who called the school just to see how they were doing throughout the day. Yes, I love my boys, I would have done anything for them. Although they are no longer babies, they have grown into amazing young men (24 and 22), I am still a protective mom.
Most parents are very protective, and when we send our children to school, we are entrusting the school staff with our most prized possessions. I shudder to think the hell someone would have paid if my children were not properly cared for. I am sure I am not alone.
Toward Student Health and Safety
When I became a teacher, I got to see the other side of things. I was able to truly understand the amount of stress that comes with being that “parent” to someone’s child. In a school setting, teachers’ duty of care obligation to students is a foregone conclusion that is summarized in the legal doctrine of “In Loco Parentis,” which means, “in the place of the parents.” This legal theory has historically been used to justify the power and authority that school officials have over students. Teachers must anticipate foreseeable dangers to students and to take steps to minimize those dangers. Specifically, a teacher’s duties always include the following broad elements:
• Adequate student supervision
• Responsibility to report the need for maintenance of equipment and facilities
• Heightened supervision of high-risk activities
• Looking after the wellbeing of students with special needs
In most negligence cases brought against teachers, the duty element is easily proven. Negligence is determined When teachers fail to exercise a standard of reasonable care, and, therefore, breach their duty to protect the well-being of students. In a lawsuit, courts may judge a teacher’s conduct based on how a reasonable teacher would have acted under similar circumstances.
Steps Administrators Can Take to Reinforce Teachers’ Duty of Care
Teachers and school staff have a Duty of Care. Meaning they must provide care.
This is why it is so important that administrators do their due diligence and make sure their teachers are equipped with the skills necessary to properly support their students’ needs. It takes a special person to be an educator today. Most teachers have a natural nurturing spirit, but school leaders must continuously train teachers on how to respond to safety and medical issues and reinforce the concepts of duty of care. Consider adding this as an agenda item to your first teacher PD of the school year, and school improvement plan, and encourage your district’s health and safety advisory committee to visit this objective often.
Consider training teachers how to:
• Report signs of neglect and abuse
• Report faulty equipment
• Manage communicable diseases
• Get someone to cover your class when you are running late or need to leave
• Identify students’ medical disorders and support them during a crisis
You are not alone. We can help you develop and deliver a comprehensive medical training policy that provides teachers with the confidence and skills they need to fulfill their duty of care obligations. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation to learn more.