Richmond, VA asked in Education Law for Virginia

Q: The school wants to handle a fight between my child and another within its system and says we shouldn't involve the

courts. Can I still choose to file a lawsuit against the other kid for medical bills?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Jay Braddock Jackson
Jay Braddock Jackson
Answered
  • Education Law Lawyer
  • Fredericksburg, VA
  • Licensed in Virginia

A: If the fight between them occurred off of school grounds, you may do as you wish. Presuming that the fight occurred on school grounds, any rights you have to pursue a recovery should not be reduced. However, your lawsuit against a child is not likely to provide much in the way of a recovery, so your suit is properly brought against the parents of minor. If it was a fight, recovery would be difficult because both participants were fighting. If your child was assaulted, that may provide a cause of action, but many homeowners insurance policies and general liability policies have exclusions for such conduct. A recovery therefore may be difficult to obtain.

As for the involvement of the school system, and again presuming that the fight occurred on school grounds or is related back for school jurisdiction by some code of conduct, it is the students who are subject to disciplinary action by the school system. Parents are generally responsible for bills, so that "claim" belongs to you, not to your child. Additionally, I would be surprised if the school/county's code of conduct for the school and students doesn't obligate the school to notify law enforcement in instances of fighting. Finally, most schools have a minimum suspension of students for instances of fighting.

It's important to keep in mind that a court appearance for fighting would likely be related to charges for assault and battery or some similar charge. The school would want to handle any concerns with the disruption of the school's social environment internally and generally want to keep their students out of criminal court as well. The court appearance that you seem to be contemplating is not a criminal matter, but rather is a civil matter involving some allegation that some unreasonable action by the child of the other parents caused you to spend money on medical bills (these are your "damages"). They are two different issues, two different sets of parties and the school's ability to claim jurisdiction is different in each.

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