Lambertville, NJ (PRWEB) August 22, 2007
Dr. Edward F. Dragan, author of the soon to be released book, Keeping Kids Safe in School: What Every Parent and Teacher Should Know, comments on keeping our students safe. School safety and liability expert, Dr. Edward F. Dragan states, “Unnecessary risks in schools must be corrected, most importantly to protect the safety of students, faculty and support staff, but also to eliminate costly litigation and settlements. Implementing regular assessments of school safety policies and procedures can greatly reduce risks.”
Dr. Dragan remarks, “All too often we hear after the fact, ‘How did this accident happen?’ or ‘Could the school have prevented it?” “Unfortunately once the accident occurs; it is too late to ask these questions, a school’s risk management plan must be proactive to be effective.”
Our nation’s schools pay millions of dollars annually in damages to school children injured in class, sexually assaulted by teachers, and harassed by fellow students. New Jersey alone faced 381 suits-more than one case a day-representing a potential liability of over 500 million dollars. This total does not include cases filed in administrative court, which typically hear special education issues. Since most cases settle privately, the general public and even some education insiders are not aware of the scope of such liability.
The following three recent instances chronicle occurrences that could have been avoided had the schools developed a risk analysis plan identifying potential safety hazards, emphasizing accountability and establishing procedures for creating and maintaining a hazard free school.
A 1.7 million dollar verdict was awarded to a third-grade student told by her teacher to return a television cart with a television on its top shelf to the library. The cart fell, causing the television to strike the student, whose injury resulted in permanent brain damage. A federal court jury decided the school was partially liable for the accident due to the student’s lack of supervision. This unfortunate incident could have been prevented if teachers and administrators had assessed the risks of allowing young children to move such equipment.
A private settlement was reached in a similar case. A board of education paid $ 850,000 to a five year old student with autism who was seriously injured when a fifty pound television fell and struck him on the head. When evidence of inadequate supervision pointed to the school’s liability the case was settled.
The coach of a girl’s track team and a student who threw his javelin one more time after the coach announced practice was over both shared payment of a $ 300,000 settlement to a student who received permanent nerve damage and facial paralysis when the javelin struck her in the face. The coach was responsible for the students while they were using potentially dangerous equipment.
Most cases of school safety violations could be prevented through practice of proactive risk management. Teachers and administrators must scrutinize their procedures, equipment use and personal practices for ways to ensure the safety of everyone concerned. Schools must follow risk management guidelines to improve overall school safety and to eliminate the high costs of accident related litigation. Although insurance companies usually pay these settlements, schools and taxpayers will ultimately have the burden of higher taxes and insurance premiums.
Dr. Dragan comments, “School administrators must develop a systematic procedure for inspecting school premises and reviewing safety procedures for evidence of potential risks. An inspection log should be established to record potential risks along with the remedial action taken to eliminate the unsafe hazard or procedure.”
In addition, Dr. Dragan suggests the following risk management guidelines to maximize school safety and security. “School administrators should assess potential risk related to all equipment in proximity or accessible to students. A safety handbook that details procedures for supervising students in all school areas should be established.”
“Administrators need to conduct in-service training and review of first-aid practices, crisis response strategies, school evacuation drills, and alternative communication methods to use, if warranted, during potential crises.”
Dr. Dragan also remarks, “Each faculty member must be aware of their specific responsibilities related to safety and should have prioritized action system available to them to effect needed safety corrections in a timely matter. Administrators need to model and emphasize personal accountability and commitment to create and maintain school safety and security procedures.”
“School administrators who demonstrate a proactive commitment to safeguarding the welfare of students, faculty members and support staff will produce safe and secure school campuses and climates which will reduce potential school liability.”
Edward F. Dragan, Ed.D. is the founder of Education Management Consulting, LLC, providing consultation to school administrators and education expert witness services to attorneys on education-related issues including school management, safety, bullying, sexual harassment, child custody, and special education . His book, Keeping Kids Safe in School: What Every Parent and Teacher Should Know, is scheduled for publication in 2008.
Edward F. Dragan, Ed.D.
Education Management Consulting, LLC