Tort walk was conducted by the undersigned and others at a local middle school in Broward County. The school was examined from the point-of-view of structural anomalies that could cause harm and injuries which could result in an action for a tort. Tort in this case could be based on negligence or injury and damage of property and if the violation of statutes goes with it then the school may be really responsible for the injuries. This position being taken the walk therefore concentrated on the structure of the building, the human traffic areas namely corridors and hall ways, the problems of the physical education set up and the soundness and safety of the school and the playground equipment. These issues are the likely source for injuries and complaints and hence these were examined in detail.
Identification of three areas of concern:
As stated above the building hallways, PE Class, and playground equipments were determined to be the areas of concern along with student security inside the campus. Basically the examination was to see if the amended rules of Florida Building Code for educational facilities construction as provided in s. 1013.37 have been adhered to. In this context the examination as contrasted with the requirements showed that most of these requirements are met. The fire safety standards are in the proper condition and there is also a provision for fire safety inspection and the school has met all of the safety and sanitation. It is stipulated that the school cafeteria must display the school’s semiannual sanitation certificate and the sanitation inspection report. This is observed to be done. The examination of fire alarm systems showed that they work but two of the fire sprinkler systems seem to be not working. There is no evidence of there being a fire hazard. The fire doors are without doorstops or wedges improperly holding them open. (Onecle, 2010) Thus having eliminated the probable violation of statutory regulations the examinations centered on the possible discrepancies. The following observations were made.
It is found that the hallways are equipped with cameras, which makes the monitoring of the hallways and the foyer ideal. But it is also shown that there is no security feature at the entrance of the school. This is a flaw because the security cameras in the passages offer no meaning if the intruder or some security threats are allowed over the ‘no security’ at entrance door of school. It means that there is no security anywhere, and this has to be remedied. It has been found that there are open restrooms, and the locks of some of the doors and emergency doors malfunction occasionally. The signs are clear and can be read like the exit signs which are visible, and the whole building thus is posted. But the security is poor and the students and staff inside have to be protected better by control of the gates and providing alternate means of escape in case of fire — it is there, but needs to be oriented, terrorism and calamities such that the students are evacuated faster and the damage and access controlled. While this may not be a tort per se, attacks of the kind cannot be ruled out and steps for security have to be strengthened.
While the class rooms and the general structure have been found to be normal, there are lacunae so far as the ‘Physical Education’ dept is concerned. It seems to have been neglected. The PE Class needs lost of upgrades including lighting, and additional wall padding prevent running into solid wall. The general procedure in this section seem to be disorderly as it was observed that the gym storage room is used for storing outdated books, which take up space and there are crates of paper, racks of chairs, instead of gym equipments. These are potential hot spots for accidents, fire and also rodent infestation. To prevent the danger these things that do not belong to the PE ought to be disposed off from the area. Because of the dumping of nick-nack the actual equipments for the PE is not available with ease and the practice area is restricted. The bleachers are old, with wide gaps between sections of bleachers. On visiting the playground the neglect is seen to be more.
The tack needs to be resurfaced to do to cracks, and these can be the cause of sprains and injuries. Further there are three basketball courts which are maintained well. There are potholes in the tennis courts and the ground needs to be resurfaced. Most of these issues are a result of disuse and neglect which must be remedied. Simple steps that are not cost involving can often boost safety. Some steps would be to have grounds and buildings policed, and take up immediate repairs to any type of damage. (National Institute of Building Sciences, 2008) If the schools are well maintained the students and teachers will automatically fall into an orderly behavior and reduce vandalism. Concentrating on these aspects is a must.
II. A comprehensive discussion of the related case law in Florida
The Florida law is not comprehensive as to cover the aspect of tort, because the statute cannot cover everything that can lead to a tortfeasance. There is also an implied assumption of risk in the affairs of the student but the general law regarding implied risk and those to be seen in an educational institution are quite different. In Verduce v Board of Higher Education Ct. Of App. NY App Division, 1959 where Verduce the Plaintiff was a student at Opera Workshop of Defendant, the Plaintiff was asked to exit from the stage without looking down on the steps. (Biers, 2006) The instructor was made aware of the potential for harm. Plaintiff was forced to do as directed in lieu of losing her role. In the process of carrying out the act Plaintiff twisted her left foot causing her to sustain injury. In this case, the Court held that Plaintiff made out a prima facie case of negligence. The contributory negligence has to be proved. Florida’s Tort Reform Act 12 is based on the ruling in Hoffmanv Jones that “liability should equate with fault.” The Tort Reform Act thus is a protection for schools and is in place to balance a system that as of now “discourages productive conduct and encourages antisocial conduct.” Thus the amendments are based on Florida’s adherence to fault-based tort compensation. (Meros; Hundley, 2000)
This is an illustration of a case where injuries can be caused in the conduct of the class or school. However serious errors do occur in other sections of which we are concerned. The statutes that spell out the general requirements with regard to safety are found in sections 1006.21 regarding transportation, 1006.22 regarding safety and health of students being transported. These not having come into the purview of the tort walk have been avoided. The next 1006.23 regarding hazardous walking conditions is applicable here. The section 1006.24 deals with tort liability and liability insurance. (Florida Statutes, 2008)
These are essential in the consideration of the position of the school. A uniform statewide building code has come in place in the construction of public educational and ancillary plants by district school boards and Florida College System institution community. (“CHAPTER 2011-5 Senate Bill No. 946,” n. d.) The aspect of safety is seen to be paramount and the Safe Passage Act: District Safety & Security Best Practices Section 1006.07(6), Florida Statutes recommend that certain steps be taken to ensure that the violent events in schools be curbed as per the Safe Passage Act that ensures child a safe passage through Florida’s education system. (Fldoe, 2005) Thus the safety and security program ought to be put in place with better instruments and personnel. Thus as of today the school is in need of observing the regulations of the board and the law and go a little more further in providing a better and safe environment for the students.
III. A detailed explanation of policies and procedures the student, in his role as a school leader would enact to deal with issues.
The injuries on the playgrounds are a serious and real possibility considering that the PE and the grounds are not maintained properly and the possibility of injury is very high. To this end the students must be made aware of being alert and avoid accidents. It is reported that over two hundred thousand students are injured at the playground in the U.S. (National Program for Playground Safety, 2006)
Therefore I would press the school and also start a campaign with the students and the parents for enforcing the National Program for Playground Safety 1995 in full. In other words the campaign other than educating students over the problems of injuries will involve them and teachers in the supervision of children on playgrounds, and will also ensure to see further if the school’s playground is in tandem with the standards that is…