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Are Teachers Liable for Student Injuries?

When working with younger students or students with disabilities, teachers are bound to run into misconduct and sometimes things can get physical. Consider this scenario:

You are teaching a class and it is interrupted by a disruption in the hallway. You go outside and see two kids yelling at each other. As the only adult around, it is up to you to diffuse the situation so you begin by asking them to separate. One student disobeys and hits the other one in the face. You grab the student by the arm and take them straight to the principal’s office, all the while the student is yelling “I have rights! You cannot touch me.”

Did you violate the student’s rights? Let’s look at the facts.

First of all, you must remember that cases involving students and teachers vary in outcome. Similar situations are not guaranteed the same verdict due to the specific environments and students needs. Teachers can only be sued in the cases of deliberate damaging action or negligence.

Intentional Torts

This is the most common charge against teachers, specifically assault and battery charges. If a teacher is only trying to restrain a student, they are given more leeway in a court of law. Students usually prevail in assault and battery cases if the teacher acts in excess to punish the student leading to injury.


Teachers can be sued for negligence if they fail to foresee and prevent likely events from happening. There are four major elements to prove that a teacher is negligent.

  • You must prove that the teacher denied their duty to protect the students from foreseeable injury.
  • The teacher failed to exercise a reasonable standard of care. Judges typically consider the teacher experience as well as the student’s age or possible disability when determining the teacher’s ability to predict events.
  • Was there proximate cause between the negligence and injury? Here, plaintiffs must prove that the lack of reasonable standard of care directly caused harm.
  • Were there actual injuries?. Hurt feelings do not count unless there is a detrimental impact on the student’s lifestyle.

After considering the acceptable reasons to sue a teacher, what do you think the outcome of the story at the beginning is?

The teacher is found not guilty in a court of law for reasonably taking control of the situation to protect all parties from further destruction. If the actions claimed to be assault and battery are considered necessary, the law allows for physical seizure when appropriate. Teachers of young and/or disabled students commonly face possible liability for the students’ well being, but in most cases the teacher is protected. If you are a teacher, or your children have been personally injured by a teacher, contact Colley & Colley law firm in Tyler, Texas for a free consultation.