Student Gets Multiple Cuts From Broken School Window


broken windowThis case involves a twelve-year-old student that was in the seventh grade at a Junior High School. The student’s class was escorted across the street to a nearby elementary school cafeteria to view an art exhibit. The student’s class was told to assemble in a hallway outside the cafeteria after viewing the art exhibit so that they could return to their school. There were quarter-inch thick plate glass windows on the side of the hallway opposite the cafeteria. One of the windows had several cracks in it, which had been repaired by placing tape over the cracks in order to reinforce the glass. The tape had been in place for four months but the glass had not been replaced by the school board. When the student leaned over to fix her stocking, her elbow hit the window and the glass collapsed around her arm and cut her severely in several places. The student had to get stitches and had to have surgery to remove the scars and this required hospitalization for one week. The student’s parents sued the school board for negligence because they knew about the broken window but did not fix it.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Does a school board have a duty to maintain a school building in a safe way for students, and if there is a dangerous condition does the school board have to fix it?

Expert Witness Response

In general, damaged glass like the kind in this case may be taped and may remain in that condition for a long period until the glass is replaced. If the glass in a window is taped, the proper safety procedure is to make sure that the damaged glass is firm in its mounting supports so that it cannot come loose and cut someone. Since the school board knew that the window was broken, the fact that they let it remain taped for so long in an area where students were known to frequently gather was negligent. Usually, if a school board knows of a dangerous condition in a school, they have an affirmative duty to put up warnings about the hazard for students to see. Also, if a school board knows of a dangerous condition in a school, they have an affirmative duty to reduce the risks of injury to students. Because of this, the school board in this case should have conducted an annual school-safety site assessment and repaired the broken window.

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