Parkland Shooting Raises Questions and Controversy About Safety at School

After the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last month, the controversial topic of school safety is back in the news. Following the shooting, during which 17 students and teachers were killed, many are calling for increased school security measures, including teachers trained to use firearms.  Others believe that weapons have no place in schools, and want to focus on the greater issue of gun control.

In the wake of such a tragedy, the discussion is heated, complex, and painful. But for all sides of the argument, there is a main question at the core. Are schools responsible for keeping our children safe?

Students spend an average of 6.64 hours in school every day for an average of 180 days a year. Many students spend even more time on campus for extracurricular activities, like sports, clubs, and academic societies. This means that many students spend the majority of their waking hours under the care of teachers and other supervisors. For parents and guardians, the idea of someone else being responsible for their children can be a scary thought.

Accident at School

Considering that around 14 million children are injured at school every year, this fear is not entirely unfounded. Most accidents at school, however, are not the result of mass violence like in the case of the Douglas High School shooting. Instead, common injury causes include:

  • Playground equipment
  • Lack of supervision
  • Poor maintenance
  • School bus accidents
  • Sports-related accidents
  • Food poisoning
  • Bullying
  • Inadequate emergency preparation

When is the School Responsible?

In many of these instances, negligence is a main cause of the injuries. For example, if a child is playing on broken equipment while a teacher chats on the phone, the teacher might be liable for any injuries. Similarly, if a supervisor fails to property react to an emergency, like an allergic reaction, they might also be liable.

On the other hand, if a student is injured while roughhousing, it is outside of the school’s control. A violent situation, like a shooting or escalation of a fight, would likely not be considered a foreseeable event within the school’s control, unless the school had previous warnings.

Can I Sue the School?

Like with any accident, there are many factors at play when it comes to determining liability for an accident at school. Even if a school is primarily responsible for a student’s injury, actually holding the school liable can be another challenge. If the injury occurred at a public school, there is the issue of sovereign immunity. Since public schools are a government entity, they are  therefore are immune to lawsuits except under very specific circumstances. If negligence explicitly causes the injury, their parents or guardians may still be able to file a lawsuit, although they will still have to follow the steps of a complex process.

In the wake of the tragedy at Douglas High School, the difficult conversation on guns, politics, and activism will likely continue. But no matter what side you take, take some time to have a thoughtful conversation about school safety, including responsibility and liability—in the event of any accident at school, whether it’s a violent attack or a simple fall, it’s best to be aware and prepared.


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.


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