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Georgia Courts Confirm School Supervision is Protected by Official Immunity

October 13, 2015

Georgia Court of Appeals, in Bartow County, reversed the denial of summary judgment to Kevin Butler, a middle school teacher, in a personal injury action brought by a student.  Butler v. Doe, 762 S.E.2d 145 (Ga. App. 2014).  Jane Doe sought to recover for injuries she suffered when she was sexually assaulted by another student as a result of Butler’s alleged failure to properly supervise the students.  During the afternoon at issue, there was a color guard presentation followed by a choral concert.  Butler was an advisor for the color guard and Doe was participating in both events.  After the presentation, three of the color guard members went to the chorus room to retrieve their belongings, Doe went to the restroom to change her clothes, and Butler went to the gymnasium in anticipation of the concert.  When Doe returned to the chorus room, two of the members had left, and the the remaining member assaulted Doe. 

 

While Doe argued that Butler’s actions were ministerial, which fall outside the protection of immunity, the Court held that Georgia law clearly identifies monitoring, supervising, and controlling the activities of students as a discretionary action protected by the doctrine of official immunity.  Further, the doctrine of official immunity extends to a discretionary action even if the allegations involve a total failure to supervise, or if the allegations violate an established school policy.  Here, the Court found there was simply no way to construe the evidence so as to conclude that Butler’s failure to supervise was anything but discretionary. 

 

Similar to the trial court, the dissent relies upon the school policy which requires Butler to ensure that his students attend after school activities.  This requirement creates a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Butler breached his duty to Doe by his failure to complete a ministerial act.  The Court held that this argument fails for two reasons.  First, the undisputed record shows that this duty, if one even existed, belonged to the chorus teacher, not Butler.  Second, the law clearly states that supervision of students is considered discretionary even where specific school policies have been violated.  Accordingly, Butler is protected by the doctrine of official immunity and is entitled to summary judgment.

 

To read more please click the following link to the court opinion: Court Opinion

 

The attorneys at Buckley Christopher & Haff are available to assist you and your company in ensuring that your employment practices are within the bounds of the law and to represent you if litigation arises.  Please contact one of our attorneys for more information.

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