Vulnerable Educator Pt 1

Vulnerable Educators Part 1 of a 3 part Newsletter Series

By William D. Berard III Esq., Senior McGrath Trainer, and
Mary Jo McGrath, Esq., CEO/Founder, McGrath Training Systems


One of the most common causes of legal action against school districts today is negligent supervision of students. Although we can never guarantee the safety or well being of a student, school districts must take precautions and ensure that every reasonable effort is made to provide a safe educational experience. This is particularly critical during less structured times such as recess, school bus loading and unloading, class change periods, after-school activities, club meetings, assemblies, and field trips. “Hot spots” where students congregate require increased vigilance. Locations such as cafeterias, hallways, bleachers, tracks, fields, athletic courts, playgrounds, and parking lots need special attention and constant adult supervision.

If a student is injured during the course of a school activity, liability will not automatically attach to the school district. In order for liability to be found, it must be demonstrated that the school district failed to act reasonably under the circumstances. In other words, would another person, with like education, skill and experience, have handled a particular situation in a similar way?

There are eight basic principles of supervision that educators must understand. Proper supervision entails the following:

  • Vigilance
  • Alertness
  • Planning
  • Practice
  • Communication
  • Knowledge
  • Discipline
  • Movement

Surprisingly, few educators have a clear understanding of what the supervision of students entails. Proactive training on the basic elements of supervision is quickly becoming one of the most important types of training conducted in school districts throughout the country. This training is essential for anyone who supervises students outside the classroom and/or off-campus, including athletic coaches, bandleaders, drama and debate coaches, cheerleading moderators, field trip leaders and chaperones. Inculcating the eight basic principles, along with specific practices and guidelines, into daily routines will protect against negligent supervision claims and contribute to a quality education for all students.

In assessing claims, the courts will look to see whether the school district fulfilled on its responsibility to train employees properly on the “how to” of supervising students. When school employees and volunteers are steeped in the eight basic principles of effective supervision of students, great strides can be made toward protecting students from harm and minimizing the risk of school district and employee liability.

Next Issue: Avoiding Vulnerable Situations

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