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Legal Memorandum: School District's Obligations in NJ

Issue: Whether a New Jersey school district has a duty to act upon notice of past teacher misconduct.

Area of Law: Administrative Law, Administrative Law & Regulation (Federal and State), Education Law
Keywords: School district's duty; Teacher misconduct
Jurisdiction: New Jersey
Cited Cases: 827 A.2d 1040
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 05/01/2006

Frugis v. Bracigliano, 177 N.J. 250, 827 A.2d 1040 (2003) (“The law imposes a duty on children to attend school and on parents to relinquish their supervisory role over their children to teachers and administrators during school hours.   While their children are educated during the day, parents transfer to school officials the power to act as the guardians of those young wards.   No greater obligation is placed on school officials than to protect the children in their charge from foreseeable dangers, whether those dangers arise from the careless acts or intentional transgressions of others.   Although the overarching mission of a board of education is to educate, its first imperative must be to do no harm to the children in its care.   A board of education must take reasonable measures to assure that the teachers and administrators who stand as surrogate parents during the day are educating, not endangering, and protecting, not exploiting, vulnerable children.”)  (Note that one may reasonable expect a school district with knowledge of prior teacher misconduct to reasonably act in some manner calculated to minimize the risk of it recurring.)

This case is the best summary of the school district’s obligations and has been cited frequently since it was decided in 2003.  No other cases or statutes have sufficiently addressed the issue with specificity.

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