School Administrators Had Duty to Warn and to Report Abuse by Former Teacher


An Illinois appellate court ruled that school administrators had a duty to warn another school district and its students of the danger of a former teacher who had molested students. The school administrators also had a duty to report such abuse to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).

In Jane Doe-3 v. White, the plaintiffs were second grade students in defendant White’s class at an elementary school in Urbana. White had been previously employed by McLean County School District (McLean) during 2002 through 2005 and, while employed by McLean, White had molested students. Plaintiffs alleged that the McLean administrators had actual knowledge of White’s conduct and that no one at McLean had reported the abuse to DCFS. In addition, the plaintiffs alleged that the administrators had issued a positive letter of recommendation for White and failed to inform Urbana of White’s misconduct.

The trial court dismissed plaintiffs’ complaint against McLean, finding that the public duty rule applied and prevented claims against McLean and its administrators. The trial court further held that neither McLean nor its administrators owed a duty of care to plaintiffs.

The public duty rule protects a governmental entity from liability under the principle that a governmental entity owes a duty of care to the public at large, not to individuals.

The appellate court, however, overruled the trial court and found that the public duty rule did not apply.

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