Our nation's schools pay millions of dollars annually in damages to school children injured in class, sexually assaulted by teachers, and harassed by fellow students. Unnecessary risks in schools can be controlled to protect the safety of students, faculty and support staffs and to eliminate costly litigation and settlements. This article provides safety tips for risk management that can be utilized by school administrators and lawyers.
"How did the accident happen?" "How could the school have prevented it?" Once the incedent occurs, it is too late to ask these questions.
Our Nations schools pay millions of dollars annually in damages to schoolchildren injured in class, sexually assaulted by teachers, and harrased by fellow students. In 1997 alone, boards of education in New Jersey faced 381 suits - more than one case a day - representing a potential liability of over $500 million. This total does not include cases filed in administrative court, which typically hears special education issues. Since most cases settle privately, the general public and even some education insiders are not aware of the scope of such liability.
The following for instance chronicle occurances that could have been avoided had the schools involved developed a risk analysis plan identifying potential safety hazards, emphasizing accountability and establishing procedures for creating and maintaining a hazard-free school.
Dr. Edward Dragan, provides education expert consultation for high-profile and complicated cases. As an educator and administrator, he has more than 35 years' experience as a teacher, principal, superintendent and director of special education. He also has served as a state department of education official.
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