One way for school organizations to create increased exposure to civil liability is to fail to properly complete school safety projects that have been started. For example, if a school district received a Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) grant at some point but still does not have a written prevention and mitigation plan or a written mental health recovery plan, they are much more vulnerable to honest and convincing attack during litigation if anyone has been injured or killed in a preventable school safety incident.
Though the argument may at times be less compelling, it is still valid for both public and non-public schools who have never participated in a REMS grant project because much in the way of free information, learning resources and free technical assistance is available to any K-12 school organization in the United States, particularly since 2003 when the U.S. Department of Education released it’s first school crisis planning guide and began to develop and dispense a wide array of high quality free resources for schools.
In addition, other federal agencies as well as countless local, state and not for profit organizations have offered valuable high quality free resources for school crisis planning to school officials. Developing school crisis plans and not following through to completion of a proper four phase plan can be very clear and convincing evidence that reasonable steps were not taken to protect human life in a variety of situations. Failing to address clear indications of risk that have been uncovered in a school safety assessment or audit is another common example of how a school organization can increase it’s exposure to civil liability relating to school safety.
Most importantly, failing to reasonably follow through on school safety projects can increase the exposure to school safety liability because people are more likely to be seriously injured or killed. If we keep our eye on the ball and work hard to develop good school safety policies, practices, plans and procedures, we reduce the risk of harm to students, staff and visitors and can thus receive a reduction in exposure to school safety litigation as a bonus to the more important benefit of improved life safety.