Section 4 - Section 4: Civil / Tort Liability v. Criminal...

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Section 4: Civil / Tort Liability v. Criminal Liability Educators must develop strategies to minimize legal liability with regard to torts and crimes. A principal has a duty to oversee the welfare of students, teachers, staff, visitors and parents. A school, overall, must be a safe place. Both teachers and administrators are responsible for the care and protection of students. A tort is defined as a civil wrong (other than a breach of contract) to a person or to property for which a court will provide a remedy in the form of damages. A crime is a wrong committed against the state where the state brings criminal charges to protect the interests of the victim and the public against the offender. All torts may be divided into two categories; intentional and negligent. An intentional tort is committed when someone intentionally impairs the rights of other, either with or without malice. Let us consider the elements of two intentional torts common the school environment: (a) assault and battery, and (b) false imprisonment. Assault & Battery: Assault is defined as intentionally placing someone in fear of immediate physical harm. No physical contact takes place. Battery is intentional wrongful physical contact. If I point a weapon (such as a gun) at someone it is an assault. If I hit them or shoot them with the gun is a battery. Assault and battery are usually committed together. If a student hits another student in the back of the head with a book, it constitutes only a battery, since the injured student did not know ahead of time that it was about to happen and did not experience fear of imminent harm. Note: Assault as a CRIME (not as a tort) is very differently defined in the Penal Code. Criminal assault requires proof of physical injury (v. mere physical contact) and may be a misdemeanor or felony depending on the extent of the injury. (See Penal Law Sections 120.00 - 120.05) It is important to document physical injury with photographs and/or medical records. Under the criminal law, if there is no physical injury, it is called harassment. (See Penal Law Sections 240.25 - 240.30). False Imprisonment: False imprisonment is defined as the intentional and unlawful restraint, against their will, of another's physical liberty, for an undue length of time. Detention is not considered false imprisonment because schools and teachers do have the authority to restrain a student's physical liberty. Detention is also generally not for an undue length of time. A reasonable detention lasts from a few minutes to a few hours. The broadest category of torts is negligent, or accidental, torts. Most law suits against schools and teachers involve negligent torts. Negligence is the failure to use due care, which results in harm to another. Schools and teachers have a duty to prevent avoidable harm to students. The courts apply a "reasonable person test" to a defendant's behavior to determine if they acted
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Section 4 - Section 4: Civil / Tort Liability v. Criminal...

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