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January 25, 2021

What Happens When a School Disregards Doctor’s Notes?

One would think that if you send your child to school with a doctor’s note stating that the child should abstain from certain activities, the school would honor the request. Certainly, that is usually the case.

But what if the school disregards such a note? Can school officials be held liable for harm that comes to a child because they didn’t follow a doctor’s instructions?

Take, for example, a child recovering from an eye injury. The child comes to school with a note from her doctor saying that she is not to participate in gym class or sports until a particular date. The girl is told to participate in a volleyball match in gym class, and re-injures the eye when a ball hits her face.

Is the School Liable for Damages?

Schools have a duty to prevent foreseeable harm from befalling their students. Without the note, the school’s PE department would not reasonably be able to foresee that participating in volleyball could cause major injury to a healthy child. Presumably, the gym and its equipment are properly maintained and reasonably safe, so the school would not likely be liable for an injury.

However, a note from a doctor—or even a parent—restricting a child from certain activities means that the school has been warned that harm might result. This would demonstrate negligence on the part of school officials if they allowed or encouraged the child to participate despite the warning.

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