CHILD HURT WHILE IN THE CARE OF THEIR SCHOOL IN GEORGIA
A child in a Muscogee County, Columbus, Georgia school has suffered an injury that caused him to have a leg amputated. The 13-year-old boy had his right leg amputated below the knee Tuesday, October 18, 2016. The incident occurred in September 2015 when the was “thrown to the floor” multiple times by a contract employee at a Columbus school.
The child was a student at an alternative school operated by/at Edgewood Student Services Center. The school district was quick to point out that the school is designated for students who have been temporarily removed from their regular school because of violations of behavior rules. However, if a school is being operated specifically for students that have been removed from their “normal” school because of behavioral problems, the school is on notice that the child poses increased behavioral challenges and, therefore, the school must be prepared to properly address those issues. Slamming a child to the ground on multiple occasions and in such a manner that the child is ultimately so injured that he loses a leg should never been an acceptable course of action for a child being disciplined within a classroom.
The incident occurred when the boy was trying to leave the classroom to call his mother to pick him up. The contract employee allegedly stopped the boy and slammed him to the floor to prevent him from leaving. The student said he was thrown to the floor a second time when he tried to leave again.
CAN A SCHOOL BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR INJURIES TO YOUR CHILD WHILE HE/SHE IS IN THEIR CARE?
The answer to that question is, unfortunately, most likely “no”:
The sovereign immunity of the state and its departments and agencies can be waived only by an Act of the General Assembly which specifically provides that sovereign immunity is thereby waived and the extent of such waiver. Art. I, Sec. II, Par. IX (e), Ga. Const. of 1983, as amended in 1991. The Crisp County School System is a political subdivision of the State of Georgia (Ga. L. 1957, pp. 2066, 2068, 2078–2079), and is vested with sovereign immunity, unless such immunity is specifically waived as provided by Art. I, Sec. II, Par. IX (e). See generally Holloway v. Dougherty County School System, 157 Ga.App. 251, 277 S.E.2d 251; compare Coffee County School Dist. v. Snipes, 216 Ga.App. 293, 294–295, 454 S.E.2d 149. In fact, the General Assembly expressly reserved the Crisp County School System’s right of sovereign immunity from suits in tort when it enacted legislation creating the school system and provided: “The Crisp County School System[‘s] … object is declared to be governmental and shall not be liable to suit in actions arising ex delicto, except where specifically authorized by law,” Ga. L. 1957, p. 2075; see Holloway, supra at 252, 277 S.E.2d 251. “Under the authority of the 1991 constitutional amendment, the General Assembly subsequently enacted ‘The Georgia Tort Claims Act’ (OCGA § 50–21–20 et seq.), applicable to causes of action accruing on or after January 1, 1991. The Georgia Tort Claims Act provides for a limited waiver of the state’s sovereign immunity for the torts of its officers and employees, but it expressly excludes school districts [and ‘other local authorities’] from the waiver. OCGA § 50–21–22(5).” Coffee County, supra at 295, 454 S.E.2d 149. The Crisp County School System is excluded from the provisions of the Georgia Tort Claims Act under the language scope of OCGA § 50–21–22(5). “Although the 1991 amendment [to Art. I, Sec. II, Par. IX] does not restrict the legislature’s authority to waive sovereign immunity to the Georgia Tort Claims Act, any such waiver must be by a ‘legislative act which specifically provides that sovereign immunity is waived and the extent of such waiver.’ [Cit.]” Coffee County, supra at 295, 454 S.E.2d 149. We cannot find and appellants do not cite us to any promulgated legislative act which specifically provides that the sovereign immunity of school systems has been waived and the extent of such waiver. Moreover, the provisions of OCGA § 20–2–991, authorizing the purchase of liability insurance by the board of control or education of various school systems and related educational institutions, do not provide for a waiver of sovereign immunity as contemplated by the 1991 constitutional amendment. Id.; compare Rawls v. Bulloch County School Dist., 223 Ga.App. 234, 477 S.E.2d 383 (OCGA § 20–2–1090, which requires the purchase of certain insurance for children riding school buses, does not provide for a waiver of sovereign immunity by county school boards). There has been no waiver of official immunity by the mere existence of the school system’s liability policy. Davis v. Dublin City Bd. of Ed., 219 Ga.App. 121, 123(3), (4), 464 S.E.2d 251.
Crisp Cty. Sch. Sys. v. Brown, 226 Ga. App. 800, 800–01, 487 S.E.2d 512, 514–15 (1997)
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