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School corporation sued by attacked students wins on appeal

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A student who filed a lawsuit against his school corporation after he was assaulted by a fellow student while a teacher was in the hallway lost his negligence case on appeal Thursday. The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment in favor of the school.

Richard Prancik was a seventh grader at Oak Hill Junior High School in November 2009 when he was put in a choke hold from behind by student K.M. in a classroom during a passing period. Prancik lost consciousness and injured his face when he fell. The classroom teacher, Rita Nolan, was standing in the hallway during the passing period supervising students as required by school policy. She did not see the incident.

The Court of appeals reviewed several cases addressing the nature and scope of a school’s duty to prevent children from coming to harm while in the school’s custody and care and the quantum of proof necessary to establish a possible breach of that duty. The cases show that courts will not shy away from holding as a matter of law that a school did not breach its duty to reasonably supervise children in their care and control where the facts warrant such a holding. Prancik’s case warrants a ruling in favor of the school corporation.

While Nolan could have positioned herself better to be able to view students in both the classroom and hallway, which may have prevented the attack, such speculation is insufficient to avoid summary judgment, Judge Michael Barnes wrote in Richard Prancik, b/n/f, Renee Prancik v. Oak Hill United School Corporation, 27A05-1302-CT-86.

There’s no evidence K.M. had violent tendencies or of any prior altercations between the two students. Nolan was following school policy and the time that Prancik and K.M. were left unobserved was no more than four minutes.
 

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