Last month, an appellate court in Connecticut issued a written opinion in a car accident case brought by an injured high school student and his parents against the school administrators at the teen’s school. In the case, Strycharz v. Cady, the court was tasked with determining whether the school’s administrative staff was protected from legal liability under governmental immunity. Ultimately, the court determined that most of the administrative staff was immune from legal liability, but a valid question existed regarding whether the assistant principals were protected.
Strycharz was a student at Bacon Academy, a public school with bus service throughout the local community. On the day in question, Strycharz rode the bus to school but upon exiting the bus did not proceed directly into the building. Instead, he and a friend decided to go across the street to smoke a cigarette before beginning the school day. On his way across the street, Strycharz was struck by another student’s car. He suffered a serious injury as a result and filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver, the school administrators, and several other town officials.
Before the case reached trial, the school administrators asked the court to dismiss the case against them, based on the fact that they were government officials carrying out a discretionary duty. Specifically, they claimed that it was up to them to determine how to protect students coming to and from school, and since the duty was discretionary, government immunity attached, making them immune from legal liability. The court noted that all of the administrators except for the assistant principals had a discretionary duty and dismissed the case against those defendants. Regarding the assistant principals, the court held that there was a ministerial duty to ensure the safe travel of students to and from the school bus into the school, but the duty was fulfilled by the assistant principals’ actions.