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Abused Special Education Student Sues School Board and City

by Joseph C. Maya on Apr. 19, 2017

Other Education Accident & Injury  Personal Injury 

Summary: Blog post about a special education student suing Stamford on a claim of negligence.

If you have a question or concern about special education law, school administration, federal standards, or the overall rights of a student, please feel free to call the expert education law attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C. in Westport today at (203) 221-3100 .

In the case of Estrada v. Stamford Board of Education, a student filed suit against a city, board of education, its administrators, as well as an assailant, for injuries resulting from alleged negligence, negligence per se, recklessness, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. In law, negligence is the failure of an individual to use reasonable care, which results in either damage or injury to another. A negligence claim requires that the student prove (1) the board of education owed him a duty; (2) the board  breached that duty and; in doing so (3) directly caused the student (4) a real and compensable injury.  In order for the student to prevail in a case for liability under intentional infliction of emotional distress, four elements must be established. It must be shown: (1) that the city, board, and/or assailant intended to inflict emotional distress or that they knew or should have known that emotional distress was the likely result of his conduct; (2) that the conduct was extreme and outrageous; (3) that the parties’ conduct was the cause of the student’s distress; and (4) that the emotional distress sustained by the student was severe. The board of education moved for summary judgment, which is a court’s ruling, as a matter of law, in favor of one party over the other.

The trial court held that the 20-year-old special education student could not rely on Connecticut law and policy to establish that the educators violated a ministerial duty.Under Connecticut law, a municipal employee is liable for the misperformance of ministerial acts, but has a qualified immunity in the performance of governmental acts. Governmental acts are performed wholly for the direct benefit of the public and are supervisory or discretionary in nature. The hallmark of a discretionary act is that it requires the exercise of judgment. In contrast, ministerial refers to a duty that is to be performed in a prescribed manner without the exercise of judgment or discretion. The identifiable person-imminent harm test requires three things: (1) an imminent harm; (2) an identifiable victim; and (3) a public official to whom it is apparent that his or her conduct is likely to subject that victim to that harm. Failure to establish any one of the three prongs will be fatal to the student’s claim that he comes within this exception. The identifiable person-imminent harm exception applies to narrowly defined classes of foreseeable victims as well as identifiable individuals. The identifiable person-imminent harm exception to qualified immunity did not apply to the sexual assault as there was no imminent harm. There was imminent harm when the AP and the SEC did not stop the student from taking the bus with the assailant after the assault. The negligence claims interspersed allegations about the decision to allow the student to ride the bus with allegations about the sexual assault. Summary judgment could not be entered as to the allegations within a count. The student was over 18, and was not within the class of persons protected by Connecticut’s Education law and policy. Summary judgment was granted to the educators regarding claims of their failure to adhere to Connecticut law.

The summary judgment motion was granted as to the negligence per se count for the educators' failure to adhere to the mandated reporting law.

If you have a child with a disability and have questions about special education law, please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq., at 203-221-3100, or at JMaya@mayalaw.com, to schedule a free consultation.

Source: Estrada v. Stamford Bd. of Educ., 2010 Conn. Super. LEXIS 3022, 2010 WL 5095331 (Conn. Super. Ct. Nov. 19, 2010)

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