Injuries Off School Grounds and School Liability

When your child suffers an injury away from the home, your first question is likely, “Who is responsible?” Parents trust their children to the hands of teachers, supervisors, and school staff under the assumption that school employees will do what’s in the child’s best interests.

Unfortunately, negligent school employees all too often fail to adequately supervise students. Understanding the rules of school liability in cases of injuries that occur off school grounds requires knowledge of the California Education Code.


Education Code Section § 44808 and School District Liability


CA Education Code Section § 44808 protects a school district from liability in most cases involving injuries that occur off campus. This section removes responsibility of supervising children off campus from the shoulders of the county superintendent of schools, school districts, city and county boards of education, and officers and employees of districts and boards.

Education Code Section § 44808 states that those parties will in no way be liable or responsible for the safety or conduct of public school pupils when they aren’t on school property. There are, however, marked exceptions to this rule. Here are a few cases that have dealt with school liability and off-grounds accidents and how the California courts ruled:

There are several other off-grounds situations that could lead to assigning responsibility with the school district, including when districts have undertaken to provide students transportation, during school-sponsored off-grounds activities and programs, and criminal assaults by third parties. Each case is different and deals with a variety of rules regarding negligence, premises liability, and duties of care to students.


Field Trips and School Liability


California gives special immunity to school districts during field trips and excursions. Unlike other off-grounds school-sponsored activities, the courts typically won’t hold the school liable for injuries or deaths occurring during “visits students and supervisors make for firsthand observation,” or “journeys chiefly for recreation.” While there are exceptions, the “field trip immunity” protects schools and school districts on such off-campus trips and excursions.