School Liability for Student Arrest
White v. Rapides Parish School Board, 867 So.2d 146 (LA. Ct. App. 3rd Cir. 2004)
On April 12, 2000, William Shepherd, a sixth-grader rode his sister’s bicycle to school. Another student observed the bicycle and believed it was one that had been stolen from her. School officials gave the student permission to take a closer look and when she identified scratches on the bicycle as looking like hers, school officials called the police.
Thirteen-year-old, William Shepherd was brought to the principal’s office. In his lawsuit, it is alleged that he was questioned by police without being Mirandized; and he was handcuffed and taken to the police station all in the full view of other students. It was later determined that the bicycle was in fact Shepherd’s sisters and not the stolen bicycle as originally thought.
Shepherd sued the school board for their actions in failing to prevent his arrest. He argued that school officials had acted unreasonably in their handling of this matter. The school board sought immunity arguing that their actions here fell under a discretionary function and thus should not allow them to be sued. Discretionary function immunity is common in state tort claims and essentially allow a state or public actor immunity in cases where they are granted discretion to carry out the government function.
Some common exceptions to discretionary function immunity are “acts or omissions which constitute criminal, fraudulent, malicious, intentional, willful, outrageous, reckless or flagrant misconduct.”
The court concluded that the school board was not entitled to immunity and that the case should proceed so that a jury could determine whether one of the exceptions to the immunity occurred here.
The court held that the school officials had a duty to act reasonably in case where a accusation is made against a student. The court made no decision as to whether the school officials here, breached that duty.