71 Am. U. L. Rev. 1105 (2022).
Education serves as one of the most impactful and purposeful tools in American society. However, the United States education system suffers from many shortcomings and failures, and as a result, may occasionally lead to student harm from the actions of educators or academic institutions. These claims commonly allege that educators and academic institutions engaged in negligent behavior, and students or parents bringing these claims are often looking for legal relief through the judicial system. These claims are typically labeled as educational malpractice, and historically, courts have almost uniformly rejected these claims as non-cognizable actions.
This Comment argues that this judicial treatment of educational malpractice cases fails to provide students and families with deserved legal relief and posits that courts should begin recognizing certain educational malpractice cases as cognizable claims of action. In educational malpractice cases, courts traditionally dismiss or grant summary judgment in favor of academic institutions as courts have yet to determine a workable standard of care for educational professionals. Taking the legal principles and guidelines already established in the medical malpractice field, this Comment contends that educational malpractice claims could be modeled similarly by employing a measurable standard of care. Further, by using the reasoning of the ‘locality rule,’ heavily relied on in earlier medical malpractice cases, courts can account for the disparities between academic institutions and help achieve more equitable outcomes. Using a modified version of medical malpractice law’s locality approach, courts can both employ a measurable standard of care for educational malpractice cases and simultaneously create a path forward to hold academic institutions and educators accountable for grossly negligent misconduct rather than outright dismiss claims of educational malpractice under the academic abstention doctrine. Allowing these claims to be heard, courts can implement further accountability to ensure that students are able to recover in the event of grossly negligent educator misconduct.
* Junior Staff Member, American University Law Review, Volume 71; J.D. Candidate, May 2023, American University Washington College of Law, B.S. Political Science, May 2020, Arizona State University. Deepest appreciation to every member of the Law Review staff for their hard work editing this piece, especially to my Note and Comment Editor, Russell Potter, and my Final Editor, Madeline Fuller, for their dedication and guidance throughout the process. I want to extend my endless appreciation to Professor Andrew Popper and Professor Stephen Wermiel for their generous advice and valuable assistance throughout the Comment process. Thank you also to my friends and family for their endless support and love every step of the way; especially to Morgan Crawford, for sitting at coffee shops throughout D.C. with me and providing motivation from the start to finish.