Recently, two school districts in Madison County, Illinois, Granite City and Alton, have come under scrutiny because of improper relationships between teachers and students. Parents have brought suit for damages suffered by their children. Further criminal prosecutions have taken place where teachers have suffered severe penalties.
Both of these school districts are public. Public schools are harder to prosecute in civil court due to the fact that the State of Illinois has what is known as the “Tort Immunity Act,” which school attorneys argue gives them immunity for hiring a teacher who has a background of sexual misconduct or even retaining the teacher instead of terminating upon notice of improper conduct. These schools have also argued that the schools are immune from negligence (using ordinary care) when supervising activities on school property, so that, at most, the school can only be held responsible for willful and wanton misconduct in supervision of students and teachers. In other words, they argue they are only responsible for exercising reckless disregard for the safety of the student.
On the other hand, private schools do not have the protection of the Illinois “Tort Immunity Act.” In cases against a public school or a private school, damages to the injured student can consist of compensatory damages for pain and suffering, humiliation, embarrassment, personal injury as well as expenses for medical and psychiatric treatment. Over and above the compensatory damages, punitive damages can be obtained against a private school. In Illinois, punitive damages cannot be awarded against a public school because of the Illinois “Tort Immunity Act.”
The law firm of WWF&G has successfully prosecuted this type of case. Early contact with this firm is recommended so proper investigation and proceedings within the statute of limitations can be achieved.