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Can I sue a teacher who disciplined my child?

On Behalf of | Feb 18, 2021 | Disciplinary Issues, Education Law

As schools in Virginia have faced so many changes in recent years, it is becoming quite common to see conflicts between faculty and staff and parents and children. 

Typically, parties can negotiate a resolution after a disagreement, but if you are at odds with your child’s school and believe that a teacher or staff member has treated your child unfairly, you may be wondering if you can pursue a civil claim. You may be able to seek civil damages in some cases, but teachers and school staff do have certain legal protections from liability. 

Teachers have special civil liability protections

Virginia Commonwealth law provides special protections for teachers who are acting within the scope of their duties. This means that if the teacher in question was acting in good faith and doing his or her best to perform the responsibilities of a teacher, he or she may be immune from civil liability. This immunity may apply whether your child’s teacher overreacted to a situation or under-reacted. 

However, if the teacher acted maliciously or with gross negligence, or if the teacher discriminated against or harassed your student, you may still be able to pursue a claim. Teachers are only protected from liability when they are acting with good faith and within the scope of their job. This means that a teacher may still be liable for incidents outside of school, as well. 

Other school staff may have civil liability protections

Virginia law extends these protections to others working in a school, so these liability protections may also apply to other school employees or staff. However, their protections are not as broad. For example, you may not be able to pursue a civil claim against staff for reporting your child for misconduct, but you may be able to for disciplining your child outside of their job responsibilities. Anytime the person was acting outside of the scope of their duties or was not acting in good faith, you may still be able to pursue civil damages. 

Both with teachers or other school employees, if the action in question is particularly egregious, you may also be able to pursue criminal charges. Your options will ultimately depend on the unique circumstances of your case. 

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