Filing a claim against a public school and its employees can be an uphill battle. This is particularly true because of the doctrine of qualified immunity. In a Washington, D.C. injury case, if a plaintiff files a claim against government officials, the officials are generally immune from suit as long as they are performing “discretionary functions.” Discretionary functions generally involve an element of judgment or choice.
Local schools are afforded extremely broad protection. In general, local schools are protected from liability for conduct that does not violate clearly established constitutional rights at the time of the conduct at issue and that is not carried out in bad faith. If qualified immunity is established, it acts as an absolute bar to the lawsuit.
In a recent state appellate court opinion, the plaintiff encountered immunity as a bar to their case. According to the decision, the plaintiff was a high school junior at a military school and was caught plagiarizing her homework. She admitted that she violated the school’s honor code, and was given a punishment of ten hours of physical exercises, which had to be completed one hour each day. The full hour of exercises had to be completed or the day would need to be repeated.