The Student-Teacher Bond: How Close Is Too Close?

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A recent court ruling in Texas shines a spotlight on the student-teacher boundary issues in schools. Recent headlines involving instances of teachers having allegedly inappropriate relationships with students always take our breath away, although for the most part, schools were rarely seen as a responsible party for these actions. But those days may be over as a result of a landmark verdict against the Episcopal School of Dallas (ESD) in a lawsuit brought by a student and her parents. John and Jane Doe v. Episcopal School of Dallas.

Background

Following nine weeks of testimony, ESD now has a huge legal liability looming over its head for the way it handled a sexual relationship involving a 34-year old teacher and a 16-year old student. The parents of the student claimed administrators failed to protect their daughter from the relationship and then forced her to withdraw from school. The school explained that after the relationship came to light and the teacher resigned, it was in the best interest of the student to withdraw from the school due to the growing gossip mill which had overtaken the school.

While the school was not held accountable for failing to prevent the relationship, the jury did find the school 90% responsible for the student's withdrawal from the school and awarded more than $5 million for anguish, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life due to the fraud and breach of trust by the school.

While the ESD case is still being dissected in the courtroom, there are several lessons that schools can learn from this case that will help prevent them from landing in the courtroom.

Please see full article below for more information.

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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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