Can Families and Victims of School Violence Sue for Damages?

School shootings and other violent events are national tragedies that leave families reeling from the pain of personal loss. Until recently, family members and shooting victims had no recourse for litigation, and thus no chance to receive compensation.

Due to the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act (CGIA), it has been impossible for victims and surviving family members to seek damages through litigation. Colorado schools have been protected from liability claims when students have been injured or killed on their property. This barrier is a stark contrast to private institutions that can be sued if patrons and visitors are injured on their property.

Legislation recently introduced to the Colorado Senate will attempt to alter the CGIA so families can sue schools for the wrongful death and catastrophic injuries of loved ones. According to the language of the bill, families would be allowed to seek damages of up to $350,000 per person if it can be proven that a school is liable for violence that occurs on property.

Are Schools Responsible for Violence on Their Property?

Schools have a duty to care for the safety of students, and allowing dangerous individuals onto property could potentially lead to litigation.

Two years ago, a Colorado high school was the site of a shooting that led to two deaths, including the shooter. According to an investigation, school officials did not punish the student responsible for the shooting when he threatened to kill his debate team coach several months prior. A further investigation into the shooter revealed that he had a history of violent outbursts and behavior, but the school deemed him “low-risk”.

In the aftermath of this tragedy, Colorado lawmakers began looking for ways to prevent further violence and create a legal means to allow families justice.

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