Negligence in Schools: Educating Educators About Their Liability

50 Pages Posted: 9 Oct 2019

See all articles by Matthew Fowler

Matthew Fowler

Victoria University of Wellington, Faculty of Law, Student/Alumni

Date Written: October 8, 2019

Abstract

Education is one of the most powerful tools a person can have. It allows us to read, calculate, understand, and make decisions. It informs our opinions, our view of others, and allows us to make our way in the world. This paper assesses the liability of those tasked with providing education at primary and secondary schools. It focusses on negligence, and explores the legal position if educators fail to take reasonable care of their students. The presence of the Accident Compensation Scheme renders physical injury actions largely unattainable. Therefore, the first type of claim relates to a failure to take care of a student’s mental well-being. Bullying, exposure to objectionable material, and outrageous conduct are the given examples. The second type of claim relates to a failure to adequately educate the student through poor teaching, which is known as ‘educational negligence’. The educational negligence doctrine is controversial, and has attracted different responses overseas. Neither of the above types of claim has been successfully litigated in New Zealand courts yet. The writer takes the view that such claims can, and will, arise in New Zealand in the near future. This informs the conclusion that New Zealand educators do face significant potential liability in negligence. In the modern context of teaching shortages and strikes, the bell may be ringing for the Government to incentivise this profession.

Keywords: “school”, “negligence”, “teacher liability”, “bullying”, “educational negligence”

JEL Classification: K00

Suggested Citation

Fowler, Matthew, Negligence in Schools: Educating Educators About Their Liability (October 8, 2019). Victoria University of Wellington Legal Research Paper, Student/Alumni Paper No. 22/2019. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3466521

Matthew Fowler (Contact Author)

Victoria University of Wellington, Faculty of Law, Student/Alumni

PO Box 600
Wellington, Victoria 6140
New Zealand

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