Dangerous Games: Student Hazing and Negligent Supervision
University of Missouri at Kansas City - School of Law
October, 18 2011
Education Law Reporter, Vol. 187, p. 373, 2004
For years, some state courts have been willing to hold schools accountable for hazing injuries under a theory of negligent supervision. Outside the hazing context, a claim of negligent supervision will seldom help a plaintiff who has been injured by another student because courts hesitate to hold school officials liable for unanticipated tortuous acts of third parties. With regard to hazing, however, some courts are more willing to view such injuries as foreseeable and preventable, particularly if there has been a history of hazing in groups connected to the school. Where there is knowledge of hazing activities, the power to control students' involvement in them, and a sufficient nexus between the activities and the school, these courts see a duty for the school to take reasonable steps to protect students from hazing. Because hazing and the resulting injuries are foreseeable, the fact that the actual hazing came at the hands of students does not preclude finding that the school's failure to properly supervise students was the proximate cause of the injuries. This article analyzes existing precedent on the duty to protect students from hazing. Once that duty is recognized though, a failure to supervise must be the proximate cause of the injury before liability can lie against the school. It concludes that all schools should have anti–hazing policies in place and should make them known to students and parents. Schools that know or suspect their students are engaged in hazing activities should move quickly to stop further hazing by disciplining the students and organizations involved. They should also evaluate their current disciplinary policies and practices to be certain that future incidents are unlikely to occur. Even schools that are not currently aware of hazing among students would be well served by developing robust policies against hazing.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 11
Keywords: Schools, students, hazing, negligent supervision, duty to protect, failure to supervise, proximate cause, anti-hazing policies, harassment, bullying
JEL Classification: I20, I28, I29, K13Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: October 19, 2011
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