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Can schools be held liable for shootings?

There is hardly a topic as grim as school shootings. In the wake of this week's events in Parkland, Florida, many distraught parents are wondering whether suing a school for a shooting is an option. With gun rights under the current spotlight, Alabama parents are gripped with fear that their childrens' schools may not be the safe spaces they once thought. After such a horrific event, some may question whether the institutions themselves can be held liable. 

Despite how unsettling a discussion on this topic may be, it is clear that school shootings are a problem in today's society. Looking to the tragedy that took place at Marysville-Pilchuck High School in 2014, Daily News speculates on parents' abilities to file a lawsuit against schools. In 2016, parents of the Marysville-Pilchuck victims sought over $100 million in damages from the both the shooter's father and the school district. The sole purpose of filing this lawsuit was to seek accountability. The parents also accused the school of failing to take effective precautions before the gunman took the lives of four other students. 

While parents across the country continue to cope with loss after school shootings, The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development points out that there still exists a gray area in regards to these events and the liability of institutions. Should schools pay closer attention to students who cause such evils? According to the ASCD, legal problems can arise when teachers and school officials intervene with a student they believe to be a threat. Some students may simply turn to their First Amendment rights to express opinions. However, recent events have sparked a debate on what, exactly, may constitute as a threat within school walls. Many parents accuse school officials who are trained to deal with public school issues of failing in their duties. The ASCD states that courts may deny the responsibility of school districts in these situations, but by the same token, these very schools operate at the expense of the average citizen. There are many different angles from which one can view this serious issue, and the ASCD adds that while courts may waive the responsibility of the institutions, legally setting aside the responsibility of educators themselves is another matter.  




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