During a typical school week, a child usually spends more time at school than they do at home. Parents must rely on the school’s supervision to provide a safe experience for their children. Parents have the right to expect that their children will receive adequate supervision at school and at day care facilities, which means that schools and day care facilities have a legal obligation to make reasonable efforts to keep the children safe. So depending on the situation, if a child is injured at school or daycare, the facility may be liable for their injury. If the school or daycare facility fails to provide adequate supervision, they may be liable for negligent supervision.
First of all, the definition of “adequate supervision” varies depending on the specific circumstance. Even in one group of children, the type and level of supervision required for the group may vary throughout the week. “Adequate” supervision is a very fluid concept. This means that legally, there is no one definition for what is adequate. However, there are a few factors that commonly influence it:
- Age. Age effects what kind of supervision is required a great deal. A kindergarten student using scissors for an art project may require a high degree of supervision, while a middle school student using scissors would not.
- Experience Level. The child’s experience level for a certain activity will affect what kind of supervision is necessary. For instance, a child who has played tackle football for several years probably would not need the same level of supervision as one who is playing for the first time.
- Nature of the Activity. Some activities require a higher level of supervision than others. A classroom of children reading books would probably not need as much supervision as a P.E. class full of children playing flag football.
- Outside Factors. Though a classroom is generally a controlled environment, the degrees to which outside factors are beyond the supervisor’s control vary with the environment. For instance, a playground is a much more dynamic environment than the typical classroom, so children on a playground may require more supervision. A field trip may present even more threats to a child’s well-being than a playground. The levels of supervision required changes depending on the situation.
In addition to providing safety from risky activities or environments, supervisors also have a duty to protect children from other sources of danger. For instance, school and day care facilities would be required to protect a child from harm from fellow students, such as bullying, as well as harm from adults, including abuse of abduction. Schools and day cares are required to supervise the child and protect them from harm, whether that means simply being near the child during a risky activity or calling the police.
If the supervisors fail to provide adequate supervision under the given circumstances, they may be guilty of negligent supervision. If the school or daycare fails to provide adequate supervision, and that failure results in harm of the child, the school district or day care facility may be held liable.