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Source Newsletter for Business and Operations Header Image

Business and Operations//

January 22, 2013

Part of your job as Risk Manager (or Business Manager, or School Head) is to protect your school from lawsuits—and there are so many ways your school can be center of a lawsuit.

Recent research proves that lawsuits can change the atmosphere and culture of a school. A Harris Interactive survey, conducted for the organization Common Good, revealed that 82% of teachers and 77% of principals say the current legal climate has changed the way they work. More than 60% of the principals surveyed said they had been threatened with a legal challenge.

That study focuses on employee liabilities. But, as you know, there are many reasons your school can be involved in a lawsuit—including suits filed by parents—and all lawsuits impact your school's atmosphere. ISM has seen a growth in “parent” lawsuits against schools through our Director and Officers coverage claims. These fall into four main taxonomies:

  • Discrimination
    1. Failure to accept
    1. Wrongful discipline
  • Education
    1. Failure to promote
    1. Failure to educate
  • Safety
    1. Failure to provide a safe environment
  • Threat (bullying)
    1. Injury/harm (misconduct)
    1. Death

The following measures, by taxonomy, offer possible mitigation to these claims.


  • Clear acceptance/interview polices and protocols
  • Mission-aligned selection criteria
  • Documentation

Failure to Promote/Educate
Setting clear expectations through:

  • Marketing materials
  • Web site
  • Conversations
  • Ongoing communication about student progress/lack of
  • Educational plans and roles (teacher/parent/student) to address

Failure to Provide Safe Environment

  • Robust Crisis Plan (safety plan)
  • Practiced safety drills
  • Training in:
    1. CPR/AED/Calling 911
    1. Bullying and Misconduct training (signs of abuse—child at risk)
    1. Background check for ALL adults having students in their “care and custody”
  • “Required reporter” and CAPTA protocols
  • An Acceptable Use policy
  • Volunteer/trip protocols

Wrongful discipline

  • Student handbook/contract
  • Articulated “Rules of Engagement” (expectations)
  • Care (due process) with zero-tolerance policies
  • Clear discipline and investigation process
    1. Due process
    1. Confidentiality
    1. Consistent

Additional breach of contract articles of interest:

For Some Parents, Leaving a Private School Is Harder Than Getting In
Private School Breach of Contract Question Due To Safety
Nut Allergy Leads To Breach Of Contract Suit For School
Youngstown Appeals Court Sides With Private School in Bullying, Breach of Contract Case

ISM works with over 800 groups for their Directors and Officers (D&O) insurance program. For more information about our coverages click here.


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