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Are Teachers or Parents Liable in School Fights?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on November 07, 2016 10:57 AM

Some people consider fights at school just kids blowing off steam, or the unfortunate, natural byproduct of throwing so many kids into a socially and emotionally charged environment. But many school fights aren't inevitable accidents, and perhaps could've been prevented with timely parental or teacher intervention.

If that doesn't happen, there are some rare cases where teachers or parents could be liable for school fights.

Parental Liability

As a general rule, parents can be held responsible for the negligent, intentional, or criminal acts committed by their children from the ages of around eight to 18. Parental liability is split into two types:

  • Civil Parental Responsibility: Parents can be responsible for malicious or willful property damage done by their children, and obligated to financially compensate the party harmed the child's actions; and
  • Criminal Parental Responsibility: Parents can be criminally responsible for the delinquent acts of their children, allowing their children firearm access, and their children's internet crimes.

State parental liability laws can vary, but in the case of a school fight, parents could be liable for any injuries their children cause (including medical bills) or property damage resulting from the altercation. The likelihood of liability could increase if parents were aware that their child was prone to physical violence before the fight.

Teacher Liability

Even though teachers often act in loco parentis (or in place of the parents) while children are at school, they are less likely to be liable for student fights absent some prior knowledge or encouragement of the fight. If a teacher had no way of knowing a fight was about to occur, or did everything reasonable to avoid or prevent the fight, he or she would probably not be liable for any injuries.

However, if teachers are found to have bullied children involved in the fight, or, god forbid, start their own toddler fight club, they could be held civilly or criminally liable. Parents of the children involved could sue the teacher or the school, or law enforcement could decide to press charges.

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