Sadly, no student in America is immune from the ills of school violence anymore. Indeed, school violence in the United States has become more commonplace in recent years. The tragedies that have seen young students killed at school have graced the news far too often. Still, school officials aren’t law enforcement officers. School leaders are tasked with establishing policies to help keep students safe. From metal detectors, to laws and punishment for weapons at school, it’s a new world for today's students. FindLaw’s “School Violence” section focuses on legal issues surrounding safety on school campuses, including burgeoning areas like cyberbullying. Click the links below to learn more.
School Safety Legal Issues and Laws
Parents, legislators, and school districts attempt to balance the desire to keep schoolchildren safe and free from bullying or harassment with the need to protect their privacy and free speech. School policies implement safety measures and school disciplinary programs to prevent violence from taking place at school and to punish those who commit acts of violence.
Bullying is increasingly seen as a serious problem for students. Several states have passed anti-bullying laws to protect their students. California, Arkansas, and Colorado all passed anti-bullying laws in order to ensure that schools are a safe place to receive an education. The federal government has not passed any laws specifically aimed at bullying, but the First Amendment's Establishment Clause and other federal laws have been interpreted to protect students from intimidation, harassment, or bullying. Students and parents can file lawsuits against a school or school district for failing to stop harmful behavior.
Many of the lawsuits presently filed relate to the theory of "premises liability." Premises liability occurs when the owner of property is legally required to keep their location safe for those legally allowed to be there. The law generally requires a "reasonable amount of care" in providing a safe environment. Since children are involved with schools the standards are considerably higher in the context of a school than they might be elsewhere.
Students attending public schools are not merely regulated, however. The Supreme Court has ruled that citizens don't give up their constitutional rights when they enroll in or attend school. The Court has ruled that certain kinds of regulation, such as bans on certain clothing and religious symbols, and the participation in groups or associations must be implemented in a non-discriminatory fashion that balances the students' free speech rights and the school's need to provide a safe learning environment.
Most schools have a code of conduct or disciplinary policy that generally outlines the student's rights and responsibilities within the student body. These policies are useful to know and both the student and their parents should refer to school policies when problems develop.
In addition to regulating the behavior of students, schools must also ensure that they control environmental hazards that could harm attending students. Over the years there have been recalls of school related items, such as BPA-lined plastic containers, clothing with drawstrings, non-insulated lunch boxes, and other items. Schools must also remove asbestos, mold, or other environmental hazards created upon construction, later uncovered, or that have otherwise developed on their premises.
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