Can Schools be Held Liable for Violence?


We are cognizant of covering all of our bases when it comes to school safety. We attend to physical security, school climate, crisis response plans, and prevention efforts. Even with all of those components in place, we wonder, “can we still be held liable if something happens in our school?”

A Colorado legislator recently introduced Senate Bill 213, which would allow the victims of school shootings or their families to sue schools when the violence is “reasonably foreseeable.” State lawmakers say they are “sending a directive to education officials to do more to keep students safe,” according to a recent article in Insurance Journal.

This bill would allow victims and their families to collect up to $350,000 from schools in a move legislators say will motivate education officials to improve school security. “It’s about holding them liable for providing a direct duty to care for those kids in their charge,” Republican Senate President Bill Cadman said.

Currently, schools have governmental immunity from being sued in Colorado. The measure allowing lawsuits would waive the state’s governmental immunity so schools could be sued for shootings.

While this bill has not yet passed, it is moving forward and is something to watch. We also want to keep an eye on the outcome of the wrongful death suit against the school board and city of Newtown, Connecticut that was filed in January by the parents of two students killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

The best way to protect ourselves from these types of legal concerns is also the best way to keep our students and staff safe – attend to all facets of school safety and be certain to review and update our practices and protocols regularly to reflect the most current research, practices and technology.