Properly Vet All Activities Outside Of Approved Curriculum For Safety Risks

When a mother of a third-grade student was called to pick up her injured daughter at school, she was shocked to find out that her daughter had been struck with a hammer by another student.

What really astounded her was when she found out that the hammers had been given to her daughter's class as part of outdoor learning activities.

The mother was not able to discuss the incident with the school's officials because she was upset at the time and her daughter needed medical attention.

The mother took her daughter to a local hospital where they determined the child had a broken finger.

In an email, the district superintendent confirmed that the district was aware of the incident and that the tools were a donation to the school. She also admitted that "the particular learning activity was not a prescribed part of the curriculum." She also said the teacher was present and saw the accident happen.

The district superintendent said that teachers were encouraged to have their classes outside whenever possible, in addition to the recess and noon break. She said the donated tools were used by a homeroom class "as part of their planned, outdoor learning activities." She said the students were taught how to use the tools and how to observe safety practices.

The superintendent also said the school sent notices to students' families to notify them about the children's use of the tools for learning. She also said that the teachers involved had sent photos of the students as they used the tools on their projects.

After the incident, however, the tools are no longer in use and have been donated to a local high school.

The mother of the child who was accidentally hit with a hammer by another student, said she did not receive any notice that the tools would be used in her daughter's third grade class. She said she would have objected if she had known beforehand. Marie Sutherland "Why were kids given hammers at school? Mom of injured child wants answers" (Mar. 24, 2021).

Commentary and Checklist

Depending upon age, students may not be able to handle tools without close supervision.

Activities that involve risk can be part of the official school curriculum and activities outside of the curriculum should be approved and vetted.

What steps should schools take to limit their liability for lack of proper supervision?

  • Provide proper instruction on the potential dangers of an activity.
  • Enforce safety rules.
  • Check equipment and monitor how the equipment is used.
  • Identify students with special needs. Students with special needs require additional supervision.
  • Identify students who have histories of inappropriate behavior and supervise such students more carefully to prevent incidents.
  • Inform school employees of their duty to supervise students, even after the regular school day has ended.
  • Implement procedures designed to supervise students adequately, such as requiring a set number of teachers in the lunchroom or permitting only one student to go to the bathroom at a time.
  • Take special care in supervising activities that could result in injury, such as team sports and physical education classes as well as science classes.
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