Can a teacher physically grab a student by the arm?

My 8 year old son came home from school and said that during his lunch time, he and a friend were discussing a car accident in which a young lady had passed away. My son asked if the lady had blond hair. The friend, as it turned out, was a cousin of the lady who passed and our cousin was the one who found her. My son was about to give his condolences when the lunchroom teacher came over and grabbed him by the arm and dragged him to the side of the room and yelled at him, making him cry. Is it legal for them to do that and what if anything should we do about it? We have already contacted the school to no avail.

Asked on February 10, 2017 under Personal Injury, Nebraska

Answers:

B.H.F., Member, Texas State Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Most school districts and teachers these days live behind the protection of "governmental immunity."  This basically prevents parents from seeking any kind of monetary retribution in a civil case from a teacher or other adminstration.  There have been cases of teachers actuallying causing death and serious bodily injury to students which have been thrown out of the civil courts.  (Ironically, with these incidents rising, public schools wonder why parents are flocking to alternative educational programs).
So... the principal was correct in the general civil sense.  However, this does not stop the inquiry. (It just stops it in their mind).  You still need to contact the local school board and seek to be heard through their administrative processes and request discipline or other action against the teacher.  This is what is called an "administrative" remedy.  You won't get any funds for counseling for your son, (assuming that he needed it), but at least it is a way to request some correction of the problem.  You should file a similar complaint with the state teacher's association. 
Your other option is to seek criminal charges.  Contact your local prosecuting office, the local law enforcement, and/or the state child protection agency to investigate criminal charges of "injury to a child."  If she grabbed his arm and drug him, then he likely experienced pain at some point.... and he certainly suffered some type of emotional harm just for trying offer sympathy.  Teacher and school administrators do not have criminal immunity... which they often forget when they are bullying parents into "just forgetting about things."  Injuring a child on purpose is not okay.... they would hold any parent or child who engaged in harmful conduct accountable.  The criminal justice system can seek similar accountability from the teacher.  If you live in a smaller, rural area where the prosecutor enables injuries to children, then simply call the media and have them assist in your inquiries on why they feel it's okay for teachers to injury children. 


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