What to Do If Your Child Is Punched at School: Seeking Answers and Justice

If your child has been physically assaulted at school, taking immediate action is crucial to ensure their safety and well-being. 

This article provides a comprehensive guide on what steps you can take to seek answers and justice in such situations.

What to Do If Your Child Is Punched at School?

When your child experiences physical violence at school, it can be distressing and challenging for you and your child. Here’s a step-by-step guide on what you should do:

Step 1: Seek Immediate Medical Attention

The well-being of your child should be your top priority. If your child has sustained any injuries, seeking immediate medical attention is essential. 

Look for signs of pain, swelling, or bruising. Even if there are no visible injuries, ensure that a medical professional evaluates your child to rule out internal trauma.

Step 2: Gather Information and Document The Incident

Obtain detailed information about the incident from your child. Take note of the date, time, location, and any witnesses present. 

Document any visible injuries by taking photographs. These details will be valuable for later discussions with school authorities or legal actions if required.

Step 3: Contact The School

Reach out to the school administration to report the incident. Provide them with a clear and concise account of what happened and share any evidence you have gathered. 

Ask for information about the school’s policies and procedures regarding incidents of violence.

Tim’s Legal Tips: Most schools have policies on assaults and bullying by other students. This is often part of a broader policy set called a student code of conduct or a similar term, which also covers other aspects of behavior, such as respect for property, dress code, and academic integrity.

Generally, you can obtain a copy of a school’s policies by asking the school directly. Schools are typically obligated to provide access to these policies for transparency and the safety of their students. Here are a few ways you might obtain a copy:

  • Website: Many schools publish their policies, including anti-bullying and assault policies, on their official websites. Look for sections titled “Policies,” “Student Handbook,” or “Code of Conduct.”
  • School Office or Administration: If the policy is not available online, you can contact the school office or administration. They should be able to provide a hard copy or direct you to where you can access the information.
  • District or Ministry of Education: If the school is public, you might also find relevant information on the school district’s website or your State’s Department of Education website.
  • Request in Writing: If you’re having difficulty accessing the policy, you could make a formal written request. This might be especially necessary in a private school setting where there’s less public accountability.

Remember, all students and parents have the right to understand the school’s policies around bullying and assault. These policies are in place to respond to incidents when they happen and to create a safe, respectful environment where every student can learn.

Step 4: Request a Meeting With School Authorities

Arrange a meeting with the relevant school authorities, such as the principal or counselor, to discuss the incident. 

During the meeting, express your concerns and seek information about their plan to address the issue and prevent future occurrences.

Step 5: Cooperate With The School’s Investigation

If the school decides to conduct an investigation, cooperate fully and provide any additional information or evidence requested. Be prepared to attend meetings or hearings related to the investigation if necessary.

Step 6: Seek Legal Advice

Depending on the severity of the incident and the actions taken by the school, it may be advisable to consult with an attorney specializing in education or personal injury law. 

They can guide you through the legal aspects and help protect your child’s rights.

Step 7: Consider Filing a Police Report

In cases of severe physical violence, it may be necessary to involve law enforcement. 

Consult with your attorney and decide whether filing a police report is appropriate based on the circumstances.

Step 8: Follow Up With The School

Stay in touch with the school regarding their actions and progress in addressing the incident. Maintain open communication channels to ensure your child’s well-being is being prioritized.

Step 9: Monitor Your Child’s Emotional Well-Being

Pay attention to any changes in your child’s behavior, emotional State, or academic performance following the incident. Provide them with the necessary support and consider seeking professional counseling if needed.

Who Is Legally Responsible For The Damages Caused By an Assaut At School?

When a child is assaulted at school, the question of liability arises. 

Who can be held responsible for the assault will depend on many factors, including the laws of the particular State, the age of the individuals involved, the circumstances of the assault, and whether there was negligence involved. 

Typically, however, responsibility could potentially fall on:

1. The Assailant

The person who committed the assault is generally held directly responsible for their actions. This could result in disciplinary measures from the school, and depending on the severity of the assault and the laws of your State, legal consequences as well.

Criminal Charges

In every State, an assault is considered a criminal act, and someone who commits an assault can be charged with a crime. 

However, the specific charges can vary widely depending on the jurisdiction, the exact circumstances of the assault, and the severity of the injuries inflicted. 

Charges could range from misdemeanors (in cases of minor assault) to felonies (for severe or aggravated assault).

If most states, if criminal charges are filed, the prosecutor will seek restitution for the victim for out-of-pocket expenses. 

If a person is found guilty of assault, they will likely be required to pay restitution to the victim as part of their criminal sentence. 

This restitution can cover things like medical expenses, counseling services, lost wages, and other costs that the victim incurred due to the assault.

Civil Case For Damages

In addition to or instead of criminal proceedings, the victim may also have the option to sue the assailant in civil court for damages. 

If successful, this could result in an order for the assailant to pay for medical bills, lost wages, and other costs related to the assault.

However, it’s important to note that whether an assailant can afford to pay damages and whether a victim can collect those amounts can depend on many factors, including the assailant’s financial situation.

In most situations, the assailant’s insurance will not pay for damages caused by an intentional assault. 

This is a complex area of law, and the above is a generalization. Anyone dealing with these issues should consult a legal professional to get advice tailored to their situation.

2. School Staff and Administration

The school staff and administration have a duty to maintain a safe and secure environment for students. 

If it is determined that their negligence or failure to take appropriate action contributed to the incident, they may share responsibility for the damages. 

This could include situations where the staff was aware of ongoing bullying or had failed to implement adequate security measures.

3. School District

Whether a school or school district can be held responsible for an assault is not always clear-cut and can depend on various factors. 

Responsibility will depend on a concept known as “negligence” or “duty of care.” Schools typically have a duty of care to ensure the safety of their students while they are at school or participating in school-related activities.

However, for a school to be found responsible or liable for an assault, it is often necessary to show that the school was somehow negligent. 

This will involve demonstrating that the school knew or should have known about a threat or dangerous situation and failed to take reasonable steps to prevent it.

Here are some potential scenarios:

  • During School Hours and Activities: Schools are generally expected to maintain a safe environment during school hours and at school-sponsored events. If an assault occurs during these times and the school did not take reasonable steps to prevent it, they might be held responsible.
  • Repeat Incidents: If there have been repeated incidents of bullying or assault involving the same students, and the school failed to respond to these incidents adequately, they may be held responsible.
  • Off School Grounds or Outside of School Hours: If an assault occurs off school grounds or outside of school hours, it’s less likely that the school would be held responsible unless the incident is related to a school activity or the school was aware of a clear and present danger to the student.
  • Incidents Involving School Employees: If a school employee commits an assault, the school will likely be held responsible.

Schools and Sovereign Immunity

Sovereign immunity is a legal doctrine that says the government cannot be sued without its consent. This principle is derived from the English common law idea that “the king can do no wrong.” 

In the United States, this principle has been modified and limited, but it can still affect lawsuits against public entities, including public schools and school districts.

When it comes to schools, sovereign immunity can make it more challenging to hold a school or school district legally responsible for an assault or other incident. 

Even if the school was negligent and that negligence contributed to the incident, sovereign immunity might protect the school from a lawsuit or limit the damages that can be awarded.

However, there are often exceptions to sovereign immunity for certain types of cases or situations. 

For example, in some States, sovereign immunity might not apply if the school engaged in a “proprietary function” as opposed to a “governmental function.” Or immunity might be waived for gross negligence or intentional misconduct.

Furthermore, federal and State laws such as Title IX in the U.S. can also come into play, allowing lawsuits against schools for failing to provide a safe environment free of sexual harassment or discrimination.

This is a very complex area of law, and the rules can vary widely depending on the jurisdiction. Therefore, anyone considering a lawsuit against a public school or other government entity should consult a legal professional to understand their rights and the potential challenges.

4. Negligent Third Parties

Depending on the circumstances, there may be instances where third parties can be held liable for the damages. 

For example, if the incident occurred during a school-sponsored event, such as a field trip, and the negligence of the organizers or chaperones contributed to the assault, they may be held accountable.

5. Parental Liability

In certain situations, the assailant’s parents may be held responsible for the damages caused by their child. 

This is typically applicable when it can be demonstrated that the parents were aware of their child’s violent tendencies or failed to exercise proper supervision or control.

It’s important to consult with an attorney specializing in personal injury or education law to determine the best course of action and who can be held responsible for the damages in your case.


Q: Can I sue the school if my child is assaulted at school?

Yes, it is possible to sue the school if your child is punched at school, depending on the circumstances and the school’s actions or lack thereof. Consult with an attorney specializing in education law to discuss the details of your case.

Q: Will my child’s medical expenses be covered if they are punched at school?

Medical expenses resulting from an incident where your child is punched at school may be covered by various sources. The assailant’s parents could cover it, your own health insurance, or potentially through a legal settlement.

Q: What should I do if the school doesn’t take appropriate action after my child is punched?

A: If the school fails to take appropriate action after your child is punched, you may need to escalate the matter. Contact the school district, seek legal advice, or consider involving law enforcement if necessary.

Q: Can I press criminal charges against the assailant?

A: Depending on the severity of the incident, it may be possible to press criminal charges against the assailant. Consult with law enforcement and your attorney to understand the options available in your jurisdiction.

Q: Can my child be transferred to a different school after being punched?

A: It is possible to request a transfer to a different school if you feel it is necessary for your child’s safety and well-being. Discuss this option with the school administration and consider seeking legal advice if required.

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Tim McDuffey is a practicing attorney in the State of Missouri. Tim is a licensed member of the Missouri Bar and Missouri Bar Association.

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