Oct 16, 2018

Appellate Division Holds that School Has Duty to Supervise Students and Prevent Unwanted Sexual Encounters

In a case involving a sexual assault in a high school, the Appellate Division recently held that school personnel have supervisory responsibilities which may extend to the prevention of unwanted sexual encounters between students.  L.E. and P.T. v. The Plainfield Public School District, et al., - N.J. Super. – (App. Div. 2018).

In June 2011, L.E. was sexually assaulted by two boys in the boys’ bathroom. 

Plaintiff sued the school and the trial court granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment on the grounds that N.J.S.A. 59:5-4 provides public entities immunity for failure to provide police protection and N.J.S.A. 59:3-5 provides immunity to public employees for injuries caused by the failure to enforce any law.

The Appellate Division reversed and held that plaintiff’s claim did not relate to a failure to provide police protection or to enforce laws.  The court distinguished between police protection immunity and educator’s duty to supervise and ensure the safety of students.  The court held that school officials have a duty to supervise children in their care and that duty extends to protecting them from unwanted sexual advances.

Thus, the Appellate Division reinstated the plaintiff’s case and allowed it to proceed to a jury.