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Parental Accountability for School Violence

No one knows the exact cause of school violence. Social scientists believe the home environment might contribute to a student's desire to wreak havoc upon his school, but no state would punish a parent for allowing a child to play violent videogames, or for allowing an older child to come home from school to an empty house. However, there are a few times when a parent may be held accountable for a child's actions.

Parent Accountability for School Violence

In nearly all states, parents can be held accountable for damages resulting from their child's criminal actions on school property, provided that child is living with the parents. This is very similar to the general rule that parents may have to pay for damage to private property caused by their children. Schools may sometimes sue parents of children who vandalize or damage school. Parents may also be criminally liable if they "contributed to the delinquency of a minor."

Parents may also be subject to criminal prosecution if their child brought a firearm to school that was owned by the parents and was not stored in accordance with state laws. Parents who are careless with their firearms and leave them in places where students can access them might be facilitating a school shooting and can be charged as an accessory.

Many students act out when they are neglected or abused at home. While these parents are not held liable strictly for school violence, when school violence exposes an unstable home life the state's department of child services may intervene. These interventions can include removing the child from the abusive home, supervised visitation, or parenting classes.

Holding Teachers Accountable

Many states have adopted laws that require teachers to report a crime that they know or have reason to believe was committed on school property or at a school activity. Failure to do so may result in criminal prosecution for a misdemeanor. However, these policies are decided by the state or the local school district, so be sure to check with a local attorney or with your state's department of education to learn more about the rules for mandatory reporting.

For more information, see FindLaw's sections on Student Discipline and Codes of Conduct.

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