Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Institution Has Duty to Protect Others from Foreseeable Violence
Key point 7-20.4. A church may be legally responsible for assaults occurring on its premises if similar assaults occurred on or near the premises in the recent past and the church failed to take reasonable precautions.

The California Supreme Court ruled that a university has a legal duty to protect students from foreseeable violence during curricular activities. A male university student (the "assailant") began experiencing problems with other students in both classroom and residence hall settings. For example:

• He informed a professor that he was "angered" by "offensive" remarks from other students during a final examination and "outraged" because their comments had affected his performance.
• He claimed to have heard another professor calling him "troubled" and "crazy," among other things.
• He complained about mistreatment by fellow dormitory residents. In a three-page letter to the Dean of Students, he alleged a female resident had repeatedly made "unwelcomed verbal sexual advances" toward him, and others had spread rumors and "accusations of a sexual nature about him throughout the entire student body."
• He claimed the residents frequently disrupted his sleep, called him "stupid," and eavesdropped on his phone calls. Not only had he been "made the target" of the residents' "teasing," but he also "received an immense amount of unwanted attention" around campus. He warned that if the university failed to discipline the responsible parties, the matter would likely "escalate into a more serious situation," and he would "end up acting in a manner that will incur undesirable consequences."

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