On February 8, 2013, the British Columbia Supreme Court
dismissed an unusual lawsuit where a parent sued a school board for
having failed to sufficiently discipline a student who assaulted
and seriously injured their son. The unusual part is that the
complaint for harsher discipline stemmed from an unrelated incident
that occurred seven months previous to a different student. The
injured boy’s parents claimed that harsher discipline for the
previous incident to the different student would have prevented the
assault on their son.
On October 5, 2006, grade 9 student Tylor Jackson asked his
classmate Makwalla Hall if he could borrow a pencil from him.
After class that day Hall punched Tylor on the left side of his
head, causing Tylor to fall and hit his head; sustaining a
traumatic brain injury and leaving him mentally and physically
compromised. Hall was then given an indefinite suspension.
Prior to this incident on March 2, 2006, Hall was involved in
another incident with a different student whom he had shoved around
a bit, but did not punch. The Vice Principal did not view the
incident as serious and Hall received a ½ day in-school
In 2011, Jackson sued the jurisdiction alleging negligence on
the basis that its care to Tylor fell below the standard of care of
a prudent and careful parent.
Jackson argued that if Hall had been suspended in March 2006 for
3-5 days (instead of a ½ day in-school suspension), Hall
would not have been emboldened by his misbehaviour.
Argument of the School Board
The jurisdiction asked the Court to dismiss the lawsuit as being
Admitting it owed Jackson a duty of care, the school board said
it did not breach the standard of care owed to Jackson and that
Jackson failed to show a causal link between the March incident and
the October incident.
The Court dismissed Jackson’s lawsuit.
The disciplinary measures imposed upon Hall in relation to the
March incident were not inadequate or contrary to school policy.
While a “punch” would typically result in a 3-to-5 day
suspension, a shove did not.
There was nothing before the Court to reasonably conclude that
the March incident was so serious to give rise to the kind of
significant discipline suggested by Jackson and that this would
have prevented Hall from punching Tylor. The two incidents occurred
seven months apart, in separate school years, at a time when
children’s behaviours were rapidly changing.
It made little sense that Tylor’s opinion of Hall when he
asked him for a pencil in October would have been changed by his
awareness of strong discipline imposed on Hall in March.
Lessons Learned from this Case
While school boards must take reasonable steps to remove
foreseeable risk of harm and ensure students are not injured by
other students, school boards are not responsible for all student
injuries that occur at school.
Student discipline must be reasonable and proportionate to the
student misbehaviour and serve an appropriate rehabilitative and
We also take a moment to remind school boards that they may be
responsible for an injury when:
• A student is injured at school because there was a
lack of reasonable supervision, or
• A teacher knows about bullying at the school but does
nothing to stop or prevent it.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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