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Let's say Bob is a child in school who usually rides the bus home to his parent's house after school. However, one day he doesn't get on the bus, instead walking to a friend's house, where he proceeds to do things his parents don't approve of. Let's say the parents complain to the school about letting their son regularly walk off to misbehave rather then ensuring he gets on the bus as they expect. What's the schools answer?

Is the school liable for the child not making it home? Are they responsible for making sure the child gets on the bus and arrives home, or has their own responsibility for the child ended the moment the bell rings for the last class? Could they be sued if Bob gets run over trying to go to his friends house one day after his parents had told the school Bob was suppose to be taking the bus home?

Does the age of the child matter? I could see the rule being different for a 19 year old compared to a kindergartener, but if so where is the line drawn on age vs school responsibility?

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  • do you inquire where the responsibility of the school ends? or rather when?
    – Trish
    Jan 10, 2023 at 18:01
  • @Trish both? I'm not sure if the school has any liability for a child during the day, since they let high schoolers leave during lunch hour often and yet I suspect that doing that for kidgnergartenners would not be acceptable. I'm not sure if the laws as to if you are legally responsible if a child leaves during middle of the days are the same for a kid not getting on the bus, or if the fact that the school day is over would actually lower their responsibility.
    – dsollen
    Jan 10, 2023 at 18:04

3 Answers 3

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In South Africa. the duty of care in regards to children and the schools they attend only begins when the child enters the classroom for the first time.

All parents are advised that, in the case of primary school children, it is not sufficient to drop young kids of at school. Parents must take them to their specific classroom.

The duty to care officially ends when the school day ends. For primary school children that is 13-15 and for highschool children that is 13-45.

Teachers are expected to work until 16-00, but the legal obligation for children to attend school ends when the school day ends.

A lot of schools don't transport children anymore and have blanket policies of parents being responsible to take children to any extra mural events outside the school.

It has just become increasingly harder to ensure children's safety, and many schools are uncomfortable with the liability it creates.

The duty of care can be extended to schools who have hostels. In this case, hostel parents take up the role of parents.

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    Interesting. In Australia, parents are not permitted on school grounds except by the normal process of visitor/contractor access as a safety precaution to prevent risks from unwanted student-adult interaction.
    – Dale M
    Jan 11, 2023 at 0:52
  • Would you object to an edit converting the times to XX:XX a.m. and YY:YY p.m. format? It is at little hard to grok at first for someone unfamiliar with South African conventions for describing the time of day?
    – ohwilleke
    Jan 11, 2023 at 16:23
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    Shows how different things can be: Here in Germany parents are positively discouraged from coming with their children to school at all. (This may not be true in the first few years of primary school - but certainly later on.) Jan 11, 2023 at 16:33
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    @ohwilleke Sorry, but I object to changing from 24-hour clock to 12-hour clock.
    – Trish
    Jan 11, 2023 at 17:18
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In California, the question is largely answered by EDC §44808, which says that

Notwithstanding any other provision of this code, no school district, city or county board of education, county superintendent of schools, or any officer or employee of such district or board shall be responsible or in any way liable for the conduct or safety of any pupil of the public schools at any time when such pupil is not on school property, unless such district, board, or person has undertaken to provide transportation for such pupil to and from the school premises, has undertaken a school-sponsored activity off the premises of such school, has otherwise specifically assumed such responsibility or liability or has failed to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances.

In the event of such a specific undertaking, the district, board, or person shall be liable or responsible for the conduct or safety of any pupil only while such pupil is or should be under the immediate and direct supervision of an employee of such district or board.

There is an exception created by the courts. In Hoyem v. Manhattan Beach City Sch. Dist., the court decided that when "school authorities' negligent supervision of students on school premises, a pupil leaves the school grounds during school hours and is subsequently injured by a motorist", the school is liable. The negligence arises from allowing the child to leave without permission. Guerrero v. South Bay Union School District rebuffed a plaintiff attempt to assign liability when a child left with permission, and was injured. Plaintiff had argues that the school "failed to properly supervise the student in allowing him to leave", but California law does not allow schools to perpetually incarcerate students in order to avoid liability.

That said, in your scenario, the district has undertaken to transport the student to some drop-off site. So the question then is what duty the school districts has assumed to the student. In my non-California district, they may shoulder the burden of transporting a student from school to a designated drop-off point, and in the case of pre-school and kindergarten students the child can only be released to a designated adult, or else with a designated older sibling. In such circumstances, a school district can be argued to have assumed a responsibility to transport the child from school to a drop-off point, and were negligent in allowing the child to wander free-range. That would be a fact-intensive inquiry, since making a bus available does not per se create a duty to force the child onto the bus.

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  • You say the question is largely answered, but from my reading of your answer it sounds more like the real answer is we don't know because the laws don't make it clear rather the the district has a burden to ensure a child enters a bus or if their duty ended once the school day was over and the child left school by any means. is that a fair interpretation?
    – dsollen
    Jan 11, 2023 at 17:52
  • The statute gives most of the answer, the small part that is not entirely clear is the Hoyem exception, which directs out attention to the known duty to keep kids on campus during school hours. That duty is not universal, rather it has been created by a particular school district action.
    – user6726
    Jan 11, 2023 at 19:15
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Possibly

It depends on the circumstances.

A school's duty of care arises from common law and is non-delegable. The NSW Education Department's website discusses it here.

The department has a responsibility under common law to ensure that reasonable steps are taken to protect students from not insignificant risks that are reasonably foreseeable. This duty extends to taking reasonable care to prevent students from injuring themselves, injuring others or damaging property.

Because the school is only required to take "reasonable steps" against "not insignificant risks that are reasonably foreseeable", circumstances will dictate if they have a duty of care, if the risk was insignificant or not, and if it was reasonably foreseeable.

Factors such as what the school has been told by the parent, whether it is an infants, primary or high school, whether this is an isolated incident or a pattern of behaviour, and the age of the child will all be relevant.

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  • what would make an out-of-school time and school grounds activity a circumstance that makes the school responsible, if there is no school-supervised event?
    – Trish
    Jan 11, 2023 at 17:16

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