New Jersey School Districts Have Duty of Reasonable Supervision of Students at Dismissal

Since the New Jersey Supreme Court decided Jerkins v. Anderson, 191 N.J. 285 (2007), it has been clear that school districts remain responsible to supervise their students during dismissal. In Jerkins, the Court set forth three elements that define the scope of this duty. This duty was more recently revisited in McKinney v. Mathew, 2016 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 1543 (App. Div. June 29, 2016) in the context of an alleged duty to supervise before arrival at school.

In Jerkins, a nine year old child was dismissed early from school. He was in a “walking district” with no bus service. He usually walked home with a family member. His parents were unaware of the early dismissal. The minor left school unattended and went to play with friends. About 2 hours later, he was hit by a car several blocks from school. He was paralyzed as a result of the accident.

The plaintiffs argued that the school district breached their duty of reasonable supervision. The defendant school district claimed they had no responsibility for an accident that occurred after the child’s dismissal, blocks from the school. The Supreme Court disagreed with the defendant school district, finding that the school did have a duty to exercise reasonable care for the supervision of their students’ safety at dismissal.

The Court enunciated three elements that a school district must follow to fulfill its duty of care:

  • the school district must adopt a reasonable policy concerning dismissal and the manner in which students of different ages will be dismissed;
  • the school must provide adequate notice of that policy to all parents or guardians; and
  • the school must effectively implement that policy and adhere to parents’ reasonable requests regarding dismissal.

In the more recent case of McKinney v. Mathew, in an unpublished Appellate Division decision, the court reviewed the applicability of Jerkins to an accident in which a high school student was hit by a car while walking to school. The plaintiff, age 17, was struck by a car and injured while crossing in the middle of a block at an intersection near his school.

The plaintiff argued that the school district failed in its duty to supervise the minor on his way to school. He argued that the district should have had a crossing guard at this location.

However, the Appellate Division refused to apply Jerkins and expand a duty to supervise before arrival upon school property. The court considered the age of the minor (age 17) and noted that he was old enough to appreciate the risk and exercise due care. The court found that the rationale of finding responsibility at dismissal did not apply to the imposition of a duty before the student arrived at the school. Further, even if there was a crossing guard at this intersection, it would not have not prevented the accident because the minor crossed in the middle of the block. The court noted that it would have been futile to direct a resistant teenager to cross in the crosswalk. It would have been a burden to impose on the school a requirement for a crossing guard. For all of these reasons, the Appellate Division found that it would be burdensome to impose the duty of reasonable supervision upon the school district, requiring supervision before the student arrives on school property.

Hence, while recognizing the existence of a duty of reasonable supervision, the McKinney court refused to extend this duty to before school supervision. Regardless, this duty remains applicable upon dismissal.

Based upon Jerkins, school districts must formulate and adopt a specific policy governing dismissal practices. It must include sufficient detail about the adult supervision and patrols present during dismissal, the assigned duties and locations of those adults at dismissal, and procedures for early dismissal days.

Once adopted, the school district must notify the parents of the dismissal policy. Additionally, the school district must inform the parents what supervision will be provided by the school district at the end of the school day and what supervised after school services, if any, are available. Finally, the school district has to adhere to its adopted policy, which includes compliance with the parent’s instructions about releasing a child to walk home alone. If these steps are followed, a school district will satisfy its duty of reasonable care in the dismissal of its students.

Best Lawyers in America Names Capehart Scatchard Shareholder to 2017 List

Capehart Scatchard Shareholder, Amy C. Goldstein, Esq. was recently selected by her peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© 2017 (a trademark of Woodward/White, Inc.) in the practice area of Family Law.  Best Lawyers® is based on an exhaustive peer-review survey in which leading attorneys cast votes on the legal abilities of other lawyers in their practice areas.  A description of the methodology can be viewed on the Best Lawyers website.

Ms. Goldstein was also named a “Lawyer of the Year” in the practice of Family Law. The “Lawyer of the Year” Honor is conferred upon a single attorney who received the highest peer-feedback overall in a specific practice area and geographic location.

Ms. Goldstein is President of the New Jersey Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Additionally, she served as an appointed member of the New State Bar Association Family Law Executive Committee for nine years and has been appointed to serve on many other state and county legal organizations. She handles all issues related to family law and lectures and writes frequently on those topics. Ms. Goldstein received her J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law in 1982.

No aspect of this advertisement has been approved by the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

Yasmeen Khaleel of Capehart Scatchard Named Emerging Leader of Burlington County

Capehart Scatchard Shareholder, Yasmeen S. Khaleel, was recently named by the Burlington County Times and the Burlington County Regional Chamber of Commerce as an Emerging Leader.  Ms. Khaleel is one of twenty-one business and community leaders selected to the list, which identifies individuals who are driving business forward and making substantial contributions to community life.

Ms. Khaleel is the co-chair of the firm’s Wills, Trusts and Estates Department, as well as the Business and Tax Department. Khaleel focuses her practice on representing individuals, business owners, medical, dental and other professionals in estate planning, estate and trust administration, business succession planning and transactional and tax planning.  Ms. Khaleel is the president of the Estate and Financial Planning Council of Southern New Jersey, is on the board of directors for the Animal Welfare Association, is a committee member of the Samaritan Hospice and Health Care Planned Giving Committee and sits on the board of directors for Asian Indian Professionals, Inc.

Capehart Scatchard’s Workers’ Compensation Department Continues To Expand

Capehart Scatchard is pleased to announce that Keith E. Nagy, Esq. and Daniela C. Vizcarra,  Esq. have recently joined the Firm’s Workers’ Compensation Department in its Mount Laurel office.

Mr. Nagy, a Southampton resident, and Ms. Vizcarra, a Voorhees resident, represent insurance carriers and employers in the defense of workers’ compensation claims at all stages of litigation.

Mr. Nagy received his law degree, cum laude, from Rutgers University School of Law in Camden and his B.A. degrees in History and Political Science, cum laude, from Rutgers University in New Brunswick. While in Law School, Mr. Nagy was selected as the winner of the James Hunter III Moot Court Program in the 2012-2013 Competition. Upon law school graduation, he worked as a law clerk to the Honorable J. Christopher Gibson, J.S.C. in the New Jersey Superior Court, Cape May County.

Ms. Vizcarra received her law degree from Rutgers University School of Law in Camden and her B.S. degree in Finance from Rutgers University School of Business in Camden.  Ms. Vizcarra served as a Law Clerk for the firm during law school.