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06/Oct/2015
Danger in the School Yard

A recent study conducted by the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and York University found that one-fifth of childhood injuries occur at school.[1]

In 2009, The Ontario School Boards’ Insurance Exchange received 27,000 playground incident reports.[2] Over 40% of these reported incidents occurred in the school yard.

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Source: Ontario School Boards’ Insurance Exchange, “Are Playgrounds Safe?” online: (2009) 10:2 Oracle at Exhibit 1 .

It is a concerning reality that informal play at school is becoming a leading cause for childhood injuries. Overwhelmingly, children are sustaining substantial injuries requiring medical treatment while playing or participating in other informal activities in the school yard.

 

What can you do as a caregiver when your child is injured in the school yard? What are your rights under the law?

 

Over 50 years ago, the Supreme Court of Canada in Myers v. Peel County Board of Education held, “the standard of care to be exercised by school authorities in providing for the supervision and protection of students for whom they are responsible is that of the careful or prudent parent”. [3]

Other factors taken into consideration in the prudent parent test include:

  • the number of students being supervised;
  • the nature of the exercise or activity in progress;
  • the age and the degree of skill and training which the students may have received in connection;
  • the nature and condition of the equipment; and
  • the competency and capacity of the students involved.[4]

The implication is significant: school authorities need to supervise and protect every student with the degree of prudence and caution of a careful and prudent parent.

When school authorities fall short of this standard of care, you have a right to pursue damages against the responsible teacher(s), principal, and even the school board.

The Education Act requires teachers to maintain proper order and discipline[5], and to ensure that all reasonable safety procedures are carried out in activities while on duty on school grounds. [6] Principals are further required to provide supervision of students when school buildings and playgrounds are open to students.[7]

The Occupier’s Liability Act extends this duty of care to the school board and requires the board to take reasonable care in all circumstances to see that students are reasonably safe while in the school yard.[8]

In a recent case, Kennedy v. Waterloo County Board of Education, the Ontario Court of Appeal overturned the trial judge’s decision, and held that the school board was negligent in failing to remove bollards from the school property pursuant to its duties under the Occupiers Liability Act.[9]

School is a place for young people to learn, play and develop as an individual. Parents and guardians should be confident in the safety and supervision provided to their children. When school authorities fall short of its obligation to maintain a safe environment for students, it is important to know your rights under the law.


 

Bogoroch & Associates LLP has been honoured to represent many children and their families to obtain compensation for injuries sustained on school grounds. Please contact Richard Bogoroch (rbogoroch@bogoroch.com) or Heidi Brown (hbrown@bogoroch.com) for further information on how we can assist you or your family member.

[1] Jonathan M. Josse et al., “School Injury Among Ottawa-Area Children: A Population Based Study” (2009) 79:2 Journal of School Health 45.

[2] Ontario School Boards’ Insurance Exchange, “Are Playgrounds Safe?” online: (2009) 10:2 Oracle at para. 3 <www.osbie.on.ca>.

[3] Myers v. Peel County Board of Education, [1981] 2 SCR 21, 1981 CanLII 27 (SCC) at page 31.

[4]  Myers v. Peel County Board of Education, [1981] 2 SCR 21, 1981 CanLII 27 (SCC) at page 32.

[5] Education Act, RSO 1990, c E-2, s. 264 (1)(e).

[6] Operation of Schools – General, RRO 1990, Reg 298, s. 20(g).

[7] Operations of Schools – General, RRO 1990, Reg 298, s. 11(3)(e).

[8] Occupiers Liability Act, RSO 1990, c O-2, s. 3(1).

[9] Kennedy v. Waterloo County Board of Education (1999), 45 OR (3d) 1 (CA) page 38-39.

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