Youth Services Law

Showing 19 posts from December 2008.

Cheerleading not a "Contact Sport"

A Wisconsin appellate court has decided that cheerleading is not a contact sport.  The Marquette Law School faculty blog explains that Brittany Noffke fell during cheerleading practice and suffered a head injury.  She sued the fellow cheerleader who, she says, failed to properly spot her during the maneuver.  The defendant, Kevin Bakke, claimed that he cannot be sued for mere negligence, under a Wisconsin statute governing contact sports.  That statute allows suits only for reckless or intentional conduct.  The Wisconsin court held that, because cheerleading does not involve contact between opposing teams, it is not a "contact sport."

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has granted review of the case, so the question is still alive.  It seems to me that the "contact sports" statute recognized that some activities, by their very nature, assume the risk of negligence by competitors and team members.  After all, there is no question, for example, that basketball is a "contact sport," and that a player could be hurt by a member of his own team chasing a missed free throw.  It is hard to understand how that player warrants more protection than a spotter on a cheerleading squad.

You can find more discussion of this decision at  the Wall Street Journal Law Blog and the PrawfsBlawg.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Posted In Schools

A student in Warner Robins, Georgia, discovered the perils of (a) using very bad judgment, and (b) being truthful about the error. A middle-school student brought an unloaded gun to his school, hoping to intimidate a boy who had been bullying him. When word of the gun spread, he panicked and threw the gun into some bushes in front of the school.  

Sent home early by investigators, he told his mother about the gun. She did the responsible thing and took him back to the school to show the school resources officer where he had thrown the gun. In return for his assistance, he spent the night in detention.

Yes, it was a serious misjudgment that had to be treated seriously. But there does seem to be an element of over-reaction in sending him straight to detention. And exactly what did the school do about that bully, by the way?      

Crisis Response

Posted In Media

Parents of a teenager killed by a tiger at the San Francisco Zoo have filed suit. The Zoo spokesman gave the traditional (and not helpful) "no comment" response to media inquiries. Fortunately, the spokesman for the City Attorney said what needed to be said: "We recognize that this was a terrible tragedy, and our hearts go out to the [teenager's] family for their loss."  

As I have said earlier, if you ever find yourself answering questions about an injury in your program, always express your concern for your client and his or her family. Recognizing that a child was injured is not the same as admitting liability for the injury. Not only is focusing on the child a good PR strategy, but it is simply the right thing to do.

Rare Wisdom in Medical Neglect Case

Posted In Illness

From the Religion Clause blog, we learn of an appropriately narrow ruling by a judge, ordering surgery for a baby whose Amish parents had refused to allow medical treatment because of religious beliefs. Area social services had petitioned the court to remove the child from the parents' custody so that he could have surgery to repair a hole in his heart.  The court found that the child was "medically neglected," but found a way to allow the surgery without removing the child from his home.  Instead, the court ordered the surgery, and held that the parents could have the medical neglect case dismissed if they took the child for medical checkups after the surgery and provided medical information that the doctors need.

This is a refreshing order, addressing what needed to be addressed (the surgery) without using the blunt instrument of removing a child from his home.  The surgery is going to cause enough trauma for a 20-month-old child, without causing additional distress of removing him from familiar and loving family members.  The case would have been more difficult if the medical condition had been a chronic one rather than a one-shot procedure, but it is nice to see that the judge found a way to navigate the issues and reach a narrowly-tailored ruling.  

Here's hoping the baby recovers quickly and that everyone is able to return to their normal lives.

Independent Christmas Shopping

Posted In Humor

A Texas toddler decided to do his own shopping, in the middle of the night, at a store near his home.  Police responding to a silent alarm at 3 a.m. at the store found the child playing with toys in the store.  He had unlocked the door at his home, crossed a wide street, and found an unlocked door at the store.  

Expert Decries "Nut Hysteria"

Posted In Schools

A professor at Harvard Medical School has suggested that parents are over-reacting to food allergies, and that children need some exposure in order to build up their tolerance to various foods. Dr. Nicholas Christakis believes that many parents' reactions to the possibility of nut allergies are irrational and overblown. While schools cannot disregard parents' concerns, administrators certainly can help educate parents so that they can put the risk into perspective.

Gift Books for Children

Posted In Miscellaneous

As usual, I'm running behind on my holiday gift-buying, and found some great suggestions for children's books at the New York Times, the Santa Clara County Library blog, USA Today, and  If you need some last-minute gifts, these lists are a great place to start.

The superintendent of the Portland School District has a wonderful idea for a free gift -- using the holidays as an occasion to write a personal letter to a child.

Big Arguments Over Small Problems

Posted In Humor

I've decided that this Christmas week is a good one to avoid gloomy subject matter, all of which can wait until after the holidays.  This post from "Say What?" does not have much to do with children, but I could not resist including it as an example of the silly things that lawyers sometimes fight over:

In a murder trial, the policeman testified, "When I arrived, the victim was still alive and he said ..."

At this point, the witness was abruptly interrupted by the judge, with stern warning that the witness should not say anything else until it was determined whether the evidence was admissible. The jury was excused and, for the next several hours, the attorneys argued subtle legal points as to whether or not the victim's statements were within the "dying declaration" exception to the hearsay rule. The prosecution, of course, contended that they clearly were; however, the defense argued that there was no showing that the deceased victim actually knew he was dying when he spoke to the policeman. Finally, the trial was recessed and, after hours of his own research, the judge announced the next morning that the testimony was admissible as a dying declaration. So, the policeman returned to the stand for this exchange:

Q. Now officer, yesterday you were about to tell us what the deceased said when you arrived on the scene. Please tell the judge and the jury what he said.

A. Well, he just said "Ugh!" and died.

New Clinical Practice Guidelines

Medical and mental health professionals are treating increasing numbers of children with developmental disorders affecting their capacity to process information and communicate.  The Interdisciplinary Council on Developmental and Learning Disabilities (ICDL) has published clinical practice guidelines to help professionals treating such children.

The section on "Home, School and Family Approaches" has many helpful suggestions that teachers and caregivers can use in working with children with special needs.  

Everything I Needed to Know About Crisis Management . . .

Posted In Media

The Food Law Liability Blog posts about a seminar presentation on crisis management, titled "Effective Crisis Leadership: 5 Basic Rules You Learned as a Kid."  The rules were: (1) Clean Up Your Mess, (2) Share, (3) Tell the Truth, (4) Apologize, and (5) Keep Your Hands to Yourself.

Check out the post.  It's a great reminder of how to apply to our problems the same principles that we teach every day.

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