Chicago Workers’ Compensation Lawyers & Illinois Injury Lawyers

Successfully Taking on an Illinois School District After Your Child Has Been Injured by a School Resource Officer or Security Guard

| May 29, 2024 | Personal Injury |

Winning a lawsuit against your child’s Illinois school district for injuries your child suffered at school is a very stiff challenge due, in large part, to Illinois laws that make schools and school employees immune from a lot of lawsuits. They are not, however, immune from all types of injury actions. In fact, court opinions and news reports have revealed one area where multiple families have achieved successful outcomes, which are injuries inflicted by security guards or school resource officers. So, if your child was hurt by the actions of a school resource officer or security guard, don’t give up before you even start. Instead, reach out promptly to an experienced Chicago injury attorney to discuss the circumstances of your child’s injuries.

Earlier this year, the Chicago Tribune reported on a case that was particularly shocking. The student, who attended school in Calumet City, had an encounter with a school security guard regarding a hall pass. According to the mother’s complaint, the guard demanded that the child produce a hall pass and, when the student did not, the guard slammed the student on a table and then choked the student with two hands, leaving the student with bruises to his neck and back. Part of what made the case so startling is that the student was in kindergarten at the time.

Regrettably, this was not the first time that this same Cook County school district was hauled into court as a result of the conduct of its security guards. In 2018, another parent sued after a security guard allegedly cursed her son, hit him in the face and grabbed him by the neck, according to the Tribune report. The family was ultimately able to reach a satisfactory settlement with the school district.

Here in Chicago’s public schools, similar problems have also allegedly arisen. In 2014, the family of a Black female high school student reached a $100,000 settlement following the family’s lawsuit. The lawsuit alleged that two school resource officers pushed the girl to the floor, twisted her arm and pressed a knee against her neck and shoulder, according to a report by the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law.

When a school employee’s misconduct crosses the line into ‘willful or wanton’

In Illinois, schools and school districts are often immune from a lot of injury lawsuits. They are not, however, immune from injury lawsuits where the person who caused the injury acted in a way that Illinois law considers to be “willful or wanton.” The law says that this willfulness or wantonness includes actions that demonstrate “a conscious choice of a course of action” that presents a risk of serious injuries. This kind of immunity can protect, for example, a P.E. teacher who mistakenly fails to dispense protective gear to students before commencing a gym class activity. Certainly, though, instances where a resource officer or security guard has chosen to become physically aggressive and/or violent with a student are a very different scenario and potentially present a much stronger example of a person who has acted in a way that was willfully or wantonly wrongful.

One advantage that you have is that, as the Illinois Supreme Court has made clear, whether or not certain conduct qualifies as willful or wanton is usually a question for a jury to decide. That means you have an improved chance of defeating a motion for summary judgment, if the school district files one. Defeating this motion is very important, as a lot of defendants will only begin to make truly fair settlement offers after they’ve lost this motion.

School injury cases are one type of action in Illinois that are especially tricky from a legal and procedural standpoint. For that reason, it is essential that you have legal representation with the skill and experience to navigate this complex area of the law successfully. For the knowledgeable advice and advocacy you need, reach out to the Chicago injury attorneys at Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Johnson, Bareck & Bertuca. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us at 312-724-5846 or through our website.