Monday, March 23, 2009

High School Cage Fighting? Seriously? Perfectly Fine In Ohio Schools...

Recently I read where Texas officials were investigating a high school whose principal made students who were caught fighting "duke it out" in a cage. It's probably safe to say that principals going "UFC" on students and making them fight as a means of punishment or discipline is harebrained and stupid (at least the UFC, which I am a huge fan of, is highly regulated and extremely safety conscious). If a student got seriously hurt or killed, most people might think that the school district should be liable for negligence in allowing students to fight one another.

Well I'm here to tell you that if this happened in Ohio, no problem whatsoever. Line 'em up, bring the popcorn, and let's "get it on" to quote UFC referee "Big John" McCarthy. No need to worry about any "legalities" here in Ohio. That's because Ohio's "soverign immunity" statutes protect school districts from almost every negligent act, with few exceptions. Here's the general rule of Ohio's soverign immunity law: school districts are NOT liable for negligence--period.

There are basically 5 exceptions to this rule. The first is the negligent operation of school buses and other vehicles. The second is if the activity is a "proprietary" (meaning non-governmental) function. If the activity is a "governmental" function, schools are immune from liability. Under the definitions of these terms, almost every act of a school district is considered a "governmental" function that serves some educational or disciplinary purpose. Example: one Ohio case ruled that the act of high school cheerleading was a "governmental function." I'm not kidding. With that analysis in mind, I'm pretty sure that "cage fighting" might fall into the same category as "cheerleading."

The third exception involves "physical defects" on school grounds. Example: the school ignores a deteriorating ceiling and it falls on Junior's head during math class. The fourth involves negligent maintenance of a "nuisance" and the fifth deals with a violation of a statute that "expressly imposes civil liability" upon a school district. Translation: unless the Ohio Legislature has passed a specific law that says to school districts "if you violate this law you can be sued," there is no liability under this exception. Immunity applies.

Although Ohio recently passed an "anti-hazing" law, something as idiotic as administration sanctioned cage fighting would not be considered "hazing" since it is defined as "doing any act or coercing another, including the victim, to do any act of initiation into any student or other organization that causes or creates a substantial risk of causing mental or physical harm to any person."

So there you have it. Cage fighting fits no exceptions to immunity, and therefore immunity applies. Just another example of "immunity" protecting stupidity. Add it to the list of other shocking examples of immunity for negligence, such as if your child is molested in the bathroom, locker room, or bus by a teacher, cook, janitor, or even a volunteer--even if that person was a convicted child molester.

These extreme examples prove how unbalanced, unfair, and downright scary school immunity laws have become. Protecting our schoolchildren? Forget it. The only thing this law does is protect the insurance companies who insure schools, and who, coincidentally, lobbied for passage of these laws.

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