What teachers can do to keep students safe and avoid liability

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What teachers can do to keep students safe and avoid liability
Teachers are responsible not only for their students' ability to learn but also their physical safety.

One of the most important aspects of teaching is ensuring that students are in an environment where learning is fostered. But teachers must also establish a place where students are safe and free from harm. This can sometimes be threatened by students themselves, as was recently demonstrated in Philadelphia.

Multiple news outlets reported that a substitute teacher at a high school in a Southwest Philadelphia suburb was attacked by an 18-year-old student, who police say slammed the substitute to the ground in a fit of rage. Officially are investigating the incident and the student faces possible expulsion.

While the teacher was the only person hurt, incurring a concussion, other students may have been injured in the fracas.

Teachers have a responsibility to protect their students from injury. While schools themselves play an important role in this assurance as well, every year, teachers are sued for liability, filed by parents who believe their son or daughter wouldn't have been hurt had better safety mechanisms been established.

TeachHub.com recently put together several tips to help teachers protect themselves and their pupils from harm so that they can avoid litigation.

Classroom should be a safe haven. Teachers are licensed professionals because in the eyes of the law, they're highly capable of helping students learn academic fundamentals. But courts also consider licensed teachers to be people who are capable of providing a safe haven for those they teach.

"Simply stated, do all that is possible to warn and protect students from potentially dangerous conditions or activities in your school and provide proper supervision to ensure that your students are protected from avoidable physical injuries," TeachHub.com advised.

Duty of care can vary. The situations that students find themselves in often determines the type of preparation teachers need to implement in order to prevent avoidable injury. For example, physical education carries with it a greater risk for being hurt because of the nature of the activity. As such, instructors needs to be sure that the equipment they're using is safe and that students understand what behaviors can lead to someone being hurt. Teachers who are new to the profession may want to mimic what other teachers do to see to it that everyone is safe.

Teachers must be able to forecast potential for injury. Preparation is all about being mindful of what may happen or what will take place in the future. So in cases where injury may occur, teachers have a responsibility of anticipating what situations may prove harmful and what they or students can do to nullify those risks. As an example, TeachHub.com referenced a situation wherein a student is threatened by classmates, who then relays this threat to his or her teacher. The proper authorities, like the principal, should be informed of this threat, because if it comes to pass, the teacher may be sued because it could have been avoided had more been done to ensure that it didn't.

What bodes in favor of teachers is that it can be difficult for teachers to be considered the party ultimately responsible for a student's injury. Among the factors that have to be established is a direct connection between a student's injury and teacher's breach of duty, evidence that a teacher failed in their responsibility to keep students safe and an actual form of trauma has to have occurred.

Always use good judgment. It goes without saying, but intentional acts of violence committed against students can result in immediate dismissal and possible prosecution. Some school districts allow for corporal punishment, but excessive use of it that causes injury may lead to liability.

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