Jan. 22nd 2003
HIGH, Plaintiffs, vs.


Given the District’s actual and imputed knowledge of the risk of harm Andrew S. presented to other students, was the District negligent in its prior handling of Andrew S’ long-standing behavior problems, discipline and discipline records?

The District negligently breached its duty to protect its students from the risk of harm presented by Andrew S’ long-standing behavioral problems, negligently supervised him and the location of the beating, and negligently investigated the incident and negligently disciplined both boys.
By virtue of the special custodial relationship a school has over its students, a school district owes a duty to protect the pupils in its custody from dangers reasonably to be anticipated.  In J.N. v. Bellingham Sch. Dist., 74 Wn. App. 49, 871 P.2d 1106 (1994), an elementary school student was sexually abused throughout the school year in the boys’ rest room of the school by another elementary school student.  Unlike the case before this court, the school district recognized the behavioral problem and made the abuser a “focus of concern” for his behavior, had him psychologically evaluated, found him “severely behaviorally disabled” and in need of an individualized education program designed to address his behavior.  The abuser’s conduct during the school year leading up to the assaults was described:
[A.B.]'s behavior seems out of control. . . . He is constantly moving and bothering others with verbal teasing, making faces, pulling hair, poking, kicking, leaning on, etc. . . . Even the best, most patient kids ask me privately if they have to work with him. . . . He is totally disruptive in cooperative learning situations and group work activities. He has very poor attention skills.
(Ibid., at 53.)

When the victim brought legal action for the school’s negligent supervision of A.B., the school refused to produce the psychological assessment and moved for dismissal, which was granted by the trial court on the theory that the sexual assaults were not foreseeable based on the student’s prior conduct.  The Court of Appeals reversed, ordered production of the assessment, and remanded for trial, stating:

Under well-established principles, when a pupil attends a school, he or she is subject to the rules and discipline of the school, and the protective custody of the teachers is substituted for that of the parent. McLeod v. Grant Cy. Sch. Dist. 128, 42 Wn.2d 316, 319-20, 255 P.2d 360 (1953). The duty imposed under these circumstances is one of reasonable care: as it supervises the pupils within its custody, the district is required to exercise such care as a reasonably prudent person would exercise under the same or similar circumstances. Briscoe v. School Dist. 123, 32 Wn.2d 353, 362, 201 P.2d 697 (1949); McLeod, 42 Wn.2d at 319-20 (liability of school district is to be determined according to the normal rules of tort law). "The basic idea is that a school district has the power to control the conduct of its students while they are in school or engaged in school activities, and with that power goes the responsibility of reasonable supervision." Peck v. Siau, 65 Wn. App. 285, 292, 827 P.2d 1108, review denied, 120 Wn.2d 1005 (1992).
As noted above, the District moved for summary judgment May 21, 2002, and that motion was denied, except for the unpleaded theory that the District had a duty to intervene after the end of the school year to prevent Jared High’s suicide, which was precluded by the court’s order.  The issues of duty, breach and causation, and the factual and legal bases for plaintiffs’ claims  were thoroughly briefed at that time.  Rather than encumber this brief with another recitation of those matters, plaintiffs merely direct this court to the summary judgment briefs of the parties.

RESPECTFULLY SUBMITTED this 22nd day of January, 2003.

By: Jay E. Leipham, WSBA # 4961
(Attorney for Brenda High)


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The Lawsuit


The Complaint for Damages
The Rest of the Story
The Assault
Suicide - The Forseeable Consequences of Bullying
Why the Pasco School District wouldn't help Jared

Court Case about Videos on a bus & bullying


HEAR JARED'S VOICE - PLAY - From an interview with Pasco School District investigators concerning the assault.  This is a recording of a recording and it isn't real clear, but worth the download effort.  Jared had a real mellow voice.   Note: If you have a slow load wav, wait for it to load entirely and then play again from the start.   5 minutes long


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