Can schools be liable for injuries to students? - Diamond and Diamond Lawyers
  • Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Can schools be liable for injuries to students?

#AskJillianCarrington

When you send your children off to school in the morning, you expect them to be safe while under the supervision and care of teachers and school administrators. Unfortunately, children can be injured in accidents occurring while at school, which can lead to parents wondering about the legal responsibility of schools and school officials when a child is injured while under their care.

Standard of care expected of school personnel

Determining whether teachers and school officials are responsible when a child is injured at school starts with the standard of care the law imposes upon them. School boards, teachers and others employed to work at schools are expected to protect students in the same manner as a reasonably prudent parent.

When a child is injured due to the failure of school personnel to perform to the standard of care expected of them, the school board could be held responsible and required to pay compensation. Courts can award compensation if there is evidence proving the child’s injuries occurred under the following circumstances:

  • The existence of a duty to supervise and protect the child from harm.
  • A breach of the duty by failing to provide adequate supervision and protection.
  • The existence of an injury resulting in damages.
  • A connection between the breach of duty and the cause of the injury.

In addition to the reasonably prudent parent standard of care, there are laws imposing other duties upon school officials that could result in school boards being held responsibility when a child is injured while at school.

Duties imposed on school officials

The Ontario Education Act imposes upon teachers a duty to maintain order and discipline in the classroom, in the school and on school grounds. It also imposes a duty on principals to monitor and supervise to ensure their teachers are performing up to the standard expected of them. A violation of the standards of the Education Act could be used as evidence to prove a child’s injuries suffered while at school were caused by the negligence of school officials.

The Occupiers’ Liability Act in Ontario imposes a duty on the owners or those in possession of premises, including school boards, to inspect and maintain the premises to protect the safety of those individuals lawfully on them. The Education Act contains similar language in describing the duties of principals to include inspecting and giving attention to school facilities to ensure they are safe for use by the children.

Playground equipment and school grounds

There are standards established by the Canadian Standards Association for playgrounds and playground equipment. It is the responsibility of school officials to conduct routine inspections and make repairs as necessary to ensure the play areas and equipment meet those standards.

A child falling in a school playground can happen even while under the care and supervision of a teacher, but a careful investigation of the accident is necessary before it can be concluded that the school was not negligent. For example, if the playground area lacked a soft, rubberized surface to cushion the child’s fall, school officials could be responsible for failing to ensure the playground met the standards established by the CSA.

Ontario personal injury lawyers

The personal injury lawyers at Diamond and Diamond have years of experience successfully handling compensation claims for people injured through the negligence of other parties. They are a valuable resource for legal advice if your child is injured while at school. Call their 24/7 injury hotline at 1-800-567-HURT or visit their website to speak to someone now. They offer free consultations and case evaluations to injured victims throughout Ontario.

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