‘School District Protected by Governmental Immunity from Lawsuit’ Judge Rules

School District Protected by Governmental Immunity from Lawsuits Judge Rules

A Utah school district escaped culpability in a lawsuit involving a teacher found guilty of sexually assaulting three of students. One of the victims is suing the Davis School District alleging the school district did nothing to prevent a repeat offender from striking again. The teacher, Brianne Altice, was accused of misconduct with three students. She is currently serving a prison sentence for forcible sex abuse.

School District Protected by Governmental Immunity from Lawsuits Judge Rules
Brianne Altice cries during her parole hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. (Image by Doug Eldredge, FOX 13 News)

Altice took responsibility for her actions crying, “This was my doing. This was no one else’s fault but my own. This was not my ex-husband’s fault, or the school’s fault, or my students’ fault. These were my poor, poor decisions. I’m very aware of it now and I am very remorseful. I regret the decisions I made that brought us here.”

According to the student filing the lawsuit, “the District knew, or at least should have known, that the Teacher ‘had been previously terminated from former employment due to sexual misconduct.’”

Judge Ryan Harris from the Utah Court of Appeals wrote in his ruling, “In addition, [the teen] asserts that on at least one occasion, the District ‘reprimanded Teacher’ after learning that she had been involved with ‘inappropriate contact with students,’ but that the District “failed to take sufficient steps to either terminate her or supervise her.”

Despite the obvious negligence of the Davis School District, the three judge panel of the Utah Court of Appeals sided with the school district and dismissed the lawsuit.

The district responded to the suit claiming protections under governmental immunity laws from any injuries that were proximately caused by the teacher. The judges agreed with the school district.

According to Fox 13:

“Judge Harris wrote that the Utah Supreme Court had grappled with a similar case decades ago, and had actually suggested the Utah State Legislature to modify the laws to give some civil remedy to victims in cases like this.”

“In the intervening years, however, our legislature has not amended the Act to expressly provide for such a remedy. Under the language of the Act— under either one of two possible interpretations, and as the Act has been interpreted by our supreme court—the District is entirely immune from suit for the acts alleged here,” Judge Harris wrote. “Accordingly, the district court correctly dismissed [the teen’s] complaint.”

A lower court ruled in favor of the school district and as of Friday, the Appellate Court upheld the lower court’s ruling.

Two other students have also filed federal lawsuits against the Davis School District making similar allegations.