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Portfolio 3: Tort and Liability 1

Portfolio #3

Tort and Liability

Tyler Dobbins

College of Southern Nevada

November 16, 2018

Portfolio 3: Tort and Liability 2

Ray Knight is a middle school student, who was suspended from school for a few days

because of his unexcused absences. His parents didn't know that he was suspended because the

school didn’t follow the proper procedure to notify them. The school district has procedures for

notifying parents of their child’s suspension; they are supposed to call the parents and send them

notification via mail. Here, they only sent a note with Ray who threw it away. During the

suspension that he never told his parents about, he was shot while at his friend’s house. This

event happened on his first day of suspension. The question is whether or not the school should

be liable for Ray Knight being shot because they failed to notify his parents of the suspension.

The first case arguing against the school’s liability is ​Johnson v. School District of

Millard (1998). ​ ​Johnson v. School District of Millard ​is a case where a little elementary school

student got hurt during music class playing “London Bridge.” London Bridge is a game where

kids link arms and raise them forming a bridge, while singing a song, then they lower their arms

on the student when the bride ‘falls down.’ The teacher, Nancy Patton, told the kids that they

can't yell, scream, act silly, or throw the kids around in their arms. In doing so, the kids did the

exact opposite and threw Johnson around in their arms and when they released him from the

bridge, they threw him into a bookcase and he cut open his head. This resulted in 50 stitches to

close the cut above his eyebrow and he still suffers from headaches. At one point he had blurred

vision for a short period of time. The court found in favor of the injured kid. Unlike​ Johnson v.

School District of Millard t​ he school should not be found liable for Ray Knights injuries. These

cases are different: Ray was not injured on school grounds, no school employee was present, and

he was not injured by another student. The lack of connections between his injuries and the

school makes this case very different from Ray Knight’s. The courts ruled that schools are liable
Portfolio 3: Tort and Liability 3

when an injury occurs on school grounds, with a teacher present, and when kids injure each

other, but that is not what happened in Ray’s case. Ray Knight was injured after leaving the

school and her injuries occured off campus. Thus, they are very different scenarios.

The first case arguing in favor of the school’s liability is ​Mitchell v. Cedar Rapids

Community School District (2013). ​This case is about a special education student, who is a

minor, that left school early with a nineteen year old male who also was a special education

student. The teacher didn't record her absent in class, therefore her absence never got to the

attendance office, and thus her mother LeAnn Mitchell was never notified. She missed both fifth

and sixth period on October 26th of her freshman year. The day she missed class is the day was

she was sexual violated off campus at one of their friend’s house while that friend watched. The

girl didn't tell her mom until the following year in May where she drove her daughter to the

police to file a report. LeAnn Mitchell sued the school because of the negligence they had when

it came to keeping eyes on her daughter. The school breached their duty to a student and their

failure to notify LeAnn of her daughter’s absence is similar to the failure to notify Knight’s

parents of his suspension. By Mitchell’s mother not being notified of her absence, she was

injured off campus and this could have been prevented by the school doing their job. In Knight’s

case, the school also did not notify his parents and thus, he was severely injured off campus. The

court found for Mitchell, but reduced the damages award by 30% for contributory negligence.

There might be some level of contributory negligence because Knight did not give his parents

the note, but the court will still likely find for Knight.

The second case arguing against the school’s liability is ​Bethel School Dist. No. 403 v.

Fraser (​ 1983)​. ​In this case a student by the name of Matthew Fraser delivered a speech which his
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teachers and counselors deemed inappropriate for a school assembly. The day of the assembly,

April 26, 1983, when he was to present his speech, they all told him not to. He was warned that if

he did present that speech, the principal would have some consequences for him; he proceeded to

do it anyway knowing there would be repercussions. The next day after his speech, school

administrators called him in the office and told him that his name is off of the graduation

ceremony list and he would be suspended for three days. A Bethel High School administrator

told him that he was suspended due to obscene language that prohibits what the schools policy

was. His father sued the school and the court found in their favor. This case compares to

Knight’s case because in both cases the student did something they knew they would be in

trouble for. Both students were suspended for their actions and were aware of the reason for their

suspension. The difference is that Matthew told his family, and they took action. Ray Knight did

not tell his family and therefore he was at least partially responsible for the event occuring. The

school should not be held liable when the student had the necessary information to tell his

parents and didn’t. Here, Knight made the choice to get in trouble and then not tell his parents

about the situation, and go to a friend’s house where the accident occured.

The final case arguing that the school is liable is ​Munn v. Hotchkiss School (2015). I​ n this

case a fifteen-year old girl, by the name of Cara Munn, was bitten by a tick in the mountains in

China while on a school field trip. The tick gave her encephalitis which caused her to lose her

ability to speak. Cara’s parents decided to sue the school of Hotchkiss which is a prep school

based in New England. They are suing because the school failed to notify them of the disease

baring bugs where the student’s were going. Hotchkiss was negligent in informing the students

and parents about what kind of insects are up there and the kind of insect repellant they needed.
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The federal court awarded the Munn family ten million in economic damages and thirty-one

point five million in noneconomic damages. Here, the school’s failure to notify the parents also

lead to a student’s serious injury. While Munn was on a field trip and still under the care of the

school, and Knight wasn’t at the time of his injury, the case still highlights a relevant point: when

schools are negligent in notification, kids can get hurt. Knight was injured because the school

didn’t notify his parents of his suspension and Munn was injured because the school didn’t notify

her parents of harmful insects in the area that she would be. The court found for Munn and will

likely find for Knight too because the school should have notified their parents in order to

present the harm.

In conclusion, Ray’s parents have every right to look into pursuing liability for their son’s

accident. The school district has procedures that the school is supposed to follow and by not

following them, something awful happened to their teenage son. There is an argument that it is

not the school’s responsibility to prevent actions that occur off school campus by non-students,

but theirnegligent behavior in not notifying Knight’s parents is the reasons that he was

somewhere other than school. A note is not good enough because if he is a troubled kid, he won't

go home and tell his parents about it anyway, just like he just threw the note away. Similarly, if a

student is already showing signs of being troubled by not coming to school, it foreseeable that

they will get into trouble when not at school as well. At the same time his parents need to be

more involved and Knight should have given them the note from school. There might be some

contributory negligence for these actions, but the school’s liability is greater.
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BETHEL SCHOOL DIST. NO. 403 V. FRASER. 478 U.S. 675 (1986). (n.d.) Retrieved

November 14, 2018.


JOHNSON V. SCHOOL DISTRICT OF MILLARD. 573 N.W.2d 116 (1998). (n.d.) Retrieved

November 13, 2018.



(2013). (n.d.) Retrieved November 14, 2018.


MUNN V. HOTCHKISS SCHOOL. 795 F.3d 324 (2015). (n.d.) Retrieved November 15, 2018.