Home > Journals > LAWREVIEW > Vol. 87 > No. 4 (2013)
Reexamining School Liability and the Viability of a Special Relationship Claim in the Aftermath of Deshaney v. Winnebago County Department of Social Services
This Note focuses on whether a school deprives a student of a constitutional due process right to bodily integrity and security and thus violates section 1983-when the school fails to adequately protect the student from harm. At the center of this discussion is the special relationship exception that DeShaney carved out. Part I briefly discusses the Fourteenth Amendment, due process, and section 1983 claims. It then examines the facts and holding of DeShaney, which have shaped the boundaries of school system liability.3 1 Part II discusses the majority approach taken by circuit courts in determining the proper duty of public schools under post-DeShaney section 1983 challenges. This Part concludes with the recent Covington decision, which is aligned with the majority view. Finally, Part III discusses the need for a clear and objective test. Specifically, it proposes a three-prong factor test that courts should apply to determine whether a special relationship arises between a school and its students. This Part then applies this test to several cases to show an objective and analytical framework that would provide courts with a test that allows recovery in the most egregious of cases, such as Covington, while denying it in lesser instances.