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School district not immune from liability in shooting incident

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Although a principal was responsible for formulating and implementing a security plan for her school, the level of discretion the principal had was not enough to give the school district immunity from liability following an in-school shooting.

Martinsville West Middle School students C.J. and B.K. filed lawsuits against the Metropolitan School District of Martinsville after they were injured during a school shooting by a former student, Michael Phelps. Even though he was prohibited from being on school property, Phelps was able to enter the building undetected by the teachers and shoot C.J. twice in the stomach. B.K. was hurt when shell casing hit his hand.

Both students and their mothers claimed the school failed to provide protection and sued the school district.

The school district filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing, in part, it was immune from liability under the Indiana Tort Claims Act. Specifically, the principal was a public employee acting in a discretionary manner which is protected under Indiana statute from liability claims.

 The Indiana Court of Appeals noted in Peavler v. Board of Commissioners of Monroe County, 528, N.E. 2d 40, 46 (Ind. 1988), the Indiana Supreme Court revisited the discretionary function exception but “was unambiguous” that it did not intend to give immunity to all decisions that involve judgment or discernment.

Subsequently, the Court of Appeals concluded that Peavler limits the immunity granted to the discretionary function to only those decisions which exercise political power and is held accountable only to the Constitution or the political process. Therefore, the school district was not immune because the principal’s development of a safety plan was not an exercise of political power.   

The Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of summary judgment in M.S.D. of Martinsville v. Rebecca Jackson, individually and as a parent and legal guardian of C.J., a Minor, and Kelli Dearth, individually and as a parent and legal guardian of B.K., a Minor, 55A01-1304-CT-182.

“As with most discretionary decisions, Principal (Suzie) Lipps may well have balanced factors and resource considerations in developing her plan, but that does not mean that this activity rises to the level of protected policy-making by the school board,” Judge Paul Mathias wrote for the court. “Under these facts and circumstances, the School District is not entitled to immunity under the discretionary function exception of the ITCA.”









 

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  1. Just an aside, but regardless of the outcome, I 'm proud of Judge William Hughes. He was the original magistrate on the Home place issue. He ruled for Home Place, and was primaried by Brainard for it. Their tool Poindexter failed to unseat Hughes, who won support for his honesty and courage throughout the county, and he was reelected Judge of Hamilton County's Superior Court. You can still stand for something and survive. Thanks, Judge Hughes!

  2. CCHP's real accomplishment is the 2015 law signed by Gov Pence that basically outlaws any annexation that is forced where a 65% majority of landowners in the affected area disagree. Regardless of whether HP wins or loses, the citizens of Indiana will not have another fiasco like this. The law Gov Pence signed is a direct result of this malgovernance.

  3. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  4. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  5. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

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