Can a church school be legally responsible for damages resulting from an alleged sexual relationship between a teacher and student? This was the difficult question confronting a Washington state appeals court in a recent case.
The student's parents sued the school and church for "negligent hiring" and "negligent supervision." The court rejected both allegations. With regard to the school's alleged negligent hiring, the court observed that "the hiring process employed by the school suggests it took reasonable care in hiring [the teacher] …. The process appears sufficient as a matter of law to discover whether an individual is fit to teach at [the school]."
With regard to the school's alleged "negligent supervision," the court agreed that "schools have a duty to supervise their students," and to take precautions to protect students from dangers that may reasonably be anticipated. However, "at some point the event is so distant in time and place that the responsibility for adequate supervision is with the parents rather than the school." Such was the case here, concluded the court, since the alleged misconduct occurred off school property during noninstructional hours.
The court also rejected the argument that the school had breached an implied promise to provide a "competent and morally fit faculty." Scott v. Blanchet High School, 747 P.2d 1124 (Wash. App. 1987)