Keeping Kids Safe as They Return to School
In New York City, the nation’s largest school system, kids returned to school this week for the first time in 18 months. With concerns focused on COVID, schools have implemented precautions including random testing, vaccine mandates for teachers, and quarantines for unvaccinated students—yet it is important to remember that pre-pandemic safety risks have not changed. According to the informational branch of the National Institutes of Health, “Falls are a leading cause of childhood trauma and are the most common mechanism of injury seen in the emergency department. Playground injuries represent a significant fraction of these falls.1”
When an establishment like a school, day care, church, or camp welcomes children to their premises, they take on both responsibility and accountability. It is a fair expectation that these institutions will keep your child safe while in their care but, if your child is injured, it is important to look further into the circumstances surrounding the injury, as insufficient supervision often lies at the core.
Cities and states across the country are experiencing a teacher shortage and New York is not immune to this struggle. In 2019, state officials determined that New York would need up to 18,000 new teachers annually2, and the pandemic has hastened retirement for many. While there are no city or state mandates regarding the ratio of adults to children during recess or play time, supervision is specified in a school’s safety plan and may involve teachers, lunchroom and recess monitors, and parent volunteers. In any case, the burden of establishing and enforcing safety and supervision guidelines lies firmly with the school—or other entity that offers children’s programs.
While there is no amount of supervision that can guarantee an injury-free playground, supervisors have a strong influence on safe play and whether kids are using equipment properly. If your child is injured on the playground or sustained an injury at summer camp, contact an attorney to review the safety policy and determine whether the institution is living up to the guidelines they have established for themselves. If not, there is a case for negligence, and calling this into scrutiny is important in order to remedy the situation going forward so other children do not suffer avoidable injuries.
Cases of negligence can be filed against both public and private schools, however if your child attends public school, you must file a notice of a claim within 90 days.
Case Study 1
Langsam Law represented a case where an 8-year-old child suffered internal injuries when she was hit by a swing on the playground. The child was hospitalized and diagnosed with damage to her pancreas. The doctors said that her pancreas had been compromised and it was possible that there would be long-term health implications. When Langsam Law reviewed the guidelines for school policy, we found that the school was not providing supervision according to the adult-to-child ratio they had defined and documented. Langsam Law settled the case for pain and suffering based on the severity of the injury as well as medical costs.
Case Study 2
A parent approached Langsam Law after their three-year-old fell from a jungle gym at daycare, which the child was not old enough to be playing on. The child suffered a bad wrist injury that required surgery. While the ratio of adults to children was in line with the daycare’s guidelines, the age policy was not being adhered to. The daycare was negligent for allowing a toddler in the vicinity of playground equipment that they had deemed not suitable for his age. Langsam Law settled the case for medical costs and pain and suffering based on the severity of the injury and medical costs.
Note: Prior results do not guarantee similar results.
1 Source: National Center for Biotechnology Information Pediatric Falls: Are Monkey Bars Bad News?
2 Source: NYSUT Fact Sheet 19-17: Teacher Shortage in New York State