Avoiding Tragedy and Litigation – Do your practices match your procedures?
Failing to follow logical school safety procedures is one way to increase the risk that someone will be hurt in a safety incident. It is also one of the best ways to be successfully litigated. One of the more effective tactics by a plaintiff’s attorney in school safety litigation is to show that a custom policy or practice was not followed that would or could have averted the tragedy. One of the best ways to avoid school safety litigation is to prevent anyone from being harmed by adopting, effectively communicating and consistently following proper safety practices. All three of these components are needed for a safe school.
Understanding that no amount of emotional suffering, litigation, and other common long lasting and difficult outcomes from a child’s preventable death at a school will ever return the lost joy and happiness to family members, as well as other students and staff, should always shape and guide the discussion of life safety issues.
School leaders and staff should all work to create and maintain a culture of safety. This requires not only the creation of effective practices, but efforts to clearly communicate them to staff, students, parents and guardians. This also requires efforts to instill these core values into the day-to-day activities. Taking the time to establish effective written guidelines that can be realistically implemented by staff, students and those who drop off and pick up students each day is an excellent practice. From a functional reliability standpoint as well as from a perspective of civil liability, having written or implied policies that match appropriate practices is important.
Take the time to develop good school safety procedures, policies and practices. Follow up on these efforts to invest the time to develop clear and achievable written guidelines when it is appropriate to do so, and then find the time to make the reality in your school match these written guidelines. The precious young lives you have been entrusted to care for deserve no less attention to detail.
Note: This blog has been posted for Michael Dorn while he is in a rural region of Mexico with no internet or phone service. He may be delayed in responding to e-mails relating to this blog.