The Supreme Court of Ohio has accepted an appeal from the Toledo City School District regarding personal liability of school teachers and administrators in cases involving bullying. The appeal was taken from the Sixth Appellate District's August reversal of the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas' grant of summary judgment. (A.J.R. v. Bd. of Educ., 2019-Ohio-3402). The outcome of this appeal could have serious implications for the personal liability of teachers and administrators in their handling of bullying matters.
This case arose from the alleged mishandling by the District of persistent bullying of a kindergarten student enrolled in the Toledo City School District. The student's parents brought suit against the school district in the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas and named two teachers and an administrator as additional defendants in their personal capacities for their alleged mishandling of the student's bullying complaints. The trial court granted the individual defendants' motion for summary judgment on immunity grounds. The parents appealed the decision to the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Appellate District. The appellate court reversed the trial court's grant of the defendants' motion for summary judgment, stating that issues of material fact, specifically whether the defendants' conduct rose to a level of “recklessness” that would cause immunity to be unavailable, rendered summary judgment inappropriate.
The Supreme Court of Ohio will hear the school district's appeal, and could create a new standard for the personal liability of school teachers and administrators in cases involving bullying. PKM attorneys will continue to closely monitor the issue.