October 5, 2017
When you enroll your child in an Arizona public school, you, as a parent, should feel a sense of relief and security, for you know that the school’s numerous administrators, teachers, coaches, and other staff members are there to
protect your child from harm. You trust that if your child is subjected to bullying, harassment, or other injuries, the school will take the necessary steps to eliminate that risk. Sadly, this is not always the case.
Often times, a student’s pleas for help simply go unheard. School staff members sometimes ignore reports of hazing to avoid conflict with other parents. Perhaps, reporting the hazing or bullying would implicate a star athlete and hurt a sports team’s chances of having a successful season. Whatever the reason, hazing and bullying remain ever-present dangers throughout the Arizona public school system. Fortunately, the Arizona legislature has enacted laws aimed at remedying your child from school-inflicted harm.
Arizona Anti-Hazing & Anti-Bullying Laws
Under Arizona law, all public schools are required to adopt and enforce polices and procedures to prohibit pupils from harassing, bullying, or hazing other students on school grounds. A.R.S. § 15-2301 (anti-hazing statute) and A.R.S. § 15-341(A)(36) (anti-bullying statute) further require schools to adopt procedures for investigating and reporting instances of hazing and bullying. Undoubtedly, if you search the school “Handbook” of your child’s educational institution, you will find the school’s policies therein. However, simply having such policies in place provides little protection to students if they are not properly enforced.
Arizona Schools Have a Duty to Protect Their Students
The Arizona legislature has made it clear that educational institutions have a duty to provide protection for students. As a general rule, a public school district in Arizona must exercise ordinary care under the circumstances to protect its students from harm. In other words, if a school knew or should have known about the systematic or continued bullying of a particular student or by a specific individual, the school has a legal duty to take preventative measures. Furthermore, under A.R.S. § 15-341(A)(16), Arizona public schools must provide “adequate supervision” over their pupils in both educational and extracurricular activities. If a school or its staff members are careless or ignore the reporting and investigation requirements of the school’s anti-hazing or anti-bullying policies, they are legally liable if such negligence causes a student’s personal injuries.
Remain Proactive to Combat Hazing and Bullying
We must acknowledge that not all hazing and bullying is through the fault of the school or school district. It is entirely possible that the school followed their reporting policies or otherwise properly responded to past instances of bullying. If such is the case, the school and school district will likely be immune from legal liability. Nonetheless, parents must remain proactive to help prevent such conduct by openly talking with their children about the harms and effects of bullying. If your child has witnessed or was subjected to hazing or bullying, do not hesitate to inform the school. Your efforts alone could prevent another from the devastating physical and emotional impact of hazing and bullying. Ideally, the school will take matters into their own hands to better prevent this unacceptable conduct in the future. However, as we know, hazing and bullying remain very real and very dangerous truths that frequently occur in our schools. Ultimately, these hazards may require legal intervention.
At Torgenson Law, we will not idly stand by while innocent children suffer personal injuries and humiliation due to the inadequate supervision and willful ignorance of these careless public schools. If your child was a victim of hazing or bullying at school, call Torgenson Law at (602) 759-0012. All children have a right to a respectful, safe place to learn. Torgenson Law makes sure that happens.