School District Did Not Have Duty to Monitor All Recordings Between Teacher and Student Where Sexual Misconduct Was Not Foreseeable

CATEGORY: Private Education Matters, Public Education Matters
CLIENT TYPE: Private Education, Public Education
DATE: Jun 02, 2022

Daniel Schafer was a high school teacher in the Anderson Union High School District. Doe was a 17-year-old high school student at the District. Schafer had been a teacher at the District since 2012 whom the District vetted through education and law enforcement agencies, and trained on sexual harassment and child abuse. When the District hired Schafer, there were no facts, reports, or rumors that Schafer had engaged in any improper relationship with students.

Doe and Schafer’s relationship began with hand-holding and texting in the classroom. Eventually, Schafer engaged in sexual activity with Doe over a period of three months in the classroom and at Schafer’s home. Doe told her best friend about their relationship, whose mother then notified the District. The District immediately investigated, obtained Schafer’s resignation, and notified Doe’s parents and law enforcement.

The District maintained outside security cameras at the high school, including a camera that recorded video of the doors to Schafer’s classroom. The District saved footage from the cameras for 14 days before it automatically erased. The District’s policy was to review the footage only if the District learned of an incident that may have been caught on video. The District also maintained an alarm system that covered the main building and Schafer’s classroom. Each employee, including Schafer, had a code to deactivate the alarm. However, the District had not requested data from the alarm company on when alarms were deactivated or by whom. Teachers had unrestricted access to the high school campus, but prior to the report of the relationship between Schafer and Doe, there had been no issues with teacher access.

Doe sued the District for negligent hiring and negligent supervision. Doe did not have evidence to support the negligent hiring cause of action, so the trial court focused on the negligent supervision cause of action. To prove negligent supervision, Doe had to show not only that Schafer posed a risk of harm, but also that the risk was foreseeable, i.e., that the District knew or should have known of the risk that Schafer posed. The trial court found in favor of the District and found there was no evidence that the District knew or should have known that Schafer posed a risk of harm to students.

Doe appealed the trial court’s decision, contending that summary judgment was improperly granted because the District had a duty to supervise and monitor Schafer and Doe, and the adequacy of a duty to supervise and monitor is a question of fact for the jury.

The California Court of Appeals for the Third District disagreed, and found the District’s duty of supervision was limited to the risks of harm that were reasonably foreseeable, i.e., that were known to the District or that reasonably should have been known to the District. The Court of Appeal concluded the District had no duty to review alarm data and video recordings for the purpose of constantly monitoring all teachers, students, and campus visitors, and no duty specifically relating to Schafer and Doe. Here, the District did not know that Schafer would sexually assault Doe, and it had no information that would support a conclusion that it should have known.

Jane Doe v. Anderson Union High School District (2022) No. C093099.

View More News

Private Education Matters
Real Estate Listing Company Adequately Alleged That Rival Listing Company Engaged In Illegal Anticompetitive Conduct
Private Education Matters, Public Education Matters
School District’s Waiver Of Liability And Assumption Of Risk Agreement Barred Student Athlete’s Personal Injury Lawsuit Against District