School District May Have Special Relationship with Their Students Requiring Protection of Students' Personal Security


In Doe v. Covington County School District, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals considered the circumstances in which a school district is required to protect students’ personal security based on a special relationship with students.

In this case, a nine year old female student was checked out from her school by an unauthorized individual, who then proceeded to molest the student before returning her to school. The school district had adopted a compulsory check out policy, which listed by name the only adults who were authorized to take the student off of campus during the school day. The checkout policy did not include a requirement that an adult seeking to check out a student verify his or her identity. The parent and grandmother of the student filed suit against the school district, alleging that the school district had violated the student’s due process rights.

As a general matter, a State’s failure to protect an individual against private violence does not constitute a violation of the due process clause of the Constitution. However, if a State has a special relationship with an individual such a duty to protect exists.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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