This case study delves into an incident involving a student who sustained severe and permanent injuries while operating an industrial vacuum during a shop class. The vacuum, which had a warning label advising against children being near it during the operation, was the cause of the injury. The school is alleged to have been negligent in preventing this accident. A school safety expert was engaged to review the case and provide support for liability.
Questions to the expert and their responses
Could you describe your professional background in school administration and safety?
My journey in education began as a graduate assistant in Biology at a renowned university, where I taught anatomy and physiology to undergraduates, with each course commencing with lab safety protocols. Later, as a science teacher specializing in chemistry and biology, safety remained a significant focus. When I transitioned into administration, I led the district safety committee, reviewing all district-wide, building-specific, and classroom-level safety procedures. Our commitment to safety earned us the highest level of distinction for a national safety award. Throughout my administrative career, I've been directly involved in drafting and adopting board policies and superintendent regulations to enhance safety protocols.
What standard training and safety measures should have been implemented to prevent an incident like this?
In light of increasing nationwide violence, schools must prioritize safety. However, it's crucial not to overlook that classrooms also follow specific safety procedures designed for students' safe learning experiences. This is particularly important in science labs and technology rooms where students often encounter first-time experiences unavailable elsewhere. Before using any equipment, including an industrial vacuum, teachers are required to explain its purpose, usage, and potential dangers. It appears this procedure was overlooked with equipment advising against children's proximity during use. All these procedures should be documented in individual classrooms and reviewed by the department and the safety committee.
Have you ever reviewed a similar case? If yes, could you elaborate?
While I haven't reviewed a case exactly like this, I have investigated in-house safety issues. The focus on school safety extends beyond just preventing violence—it also includes ensuring that students can safely engage with classroom equipment and materials. The expert witness is available to provide further review and opinion on school safety in this case.
About the expert
This expert has over two decades of experience in education, with more than half spent in administrative roles. They hold a BS and MS in Biology and an EdD from reputable institutions. Their career began as a science teacher and athletic director before transitioning into principal and superintendent roles at various schools. Currently, they work as an independent education consultant and advisor for an educational software company, demonstrating their ongoing commitment to the field. This expert's extensive background in school administration, safety protocols, and hands-on classroom experience make them highly relevant to this case study involving school safety negligence.
About the author
Zach Barreto is a distinguished professional in the legal industry, currently serving as the Senior Vice President of Research at the Expert Institute. With a deep understanding of a broad range of legal practice areas, Zach's expertise encompasses personal injury, medical malpractice, mass torts, defective products, and many other sectors. His skills are particularly evident in handling complex litigation matters, including high-profile cases like the Opioids litigation, NFL Concussion Litigation, California Wildfires, 3M earplugs, Elmiron, Transvaginal Mesh, NFL Concussion Litigation, Roundup, Camp Lejeune, Hernia Mesh, IVC filters, Paraquat, Paragard, Talcum Powder, Zantac, and many others.
Under his leadership, the Expert Institute’s research team has expanded impressively from a single member to a robust team of 100 professionals over the last decade. This growth reflects his ability to navigate the intricate and demanding landscape of legal research and expert recruitment effectively. Zach has been instrumental in working on nationally significant litigation matters, including cases involving pharmaceuticals, medical devices, toxic chemical exposure, and wrongful death, among others.
At the Expert Institute, Zach is responsible for managing all aspects of the research department and developing strategic institutional relationships. He plays a key role in equipping attorneys for success through expert consulting, case management, strategic research, and expert due diligence provided by the Institute’s cloud-based legal services platform, Expert iQ.
Educationally, Zach holds a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and European History from Vanderbilt University.