Dangerous Dodge Ball: 4 Lawsuits Stemming from P.E.

Updated June 17, 2016 |
Dangerous Dodge Ball: 4 Lawsuits Stemming from P.E.
Physical education could mean much more than scrapped knees and bruised egos from being picked last. Learn about four lawsuits involving physical education that range from fights to even a tragic death.
Ask any elementary-aged child what their favorite school subject is and many will either say recess or P.E. Children delight in the opportunity to run, play and compete with other students after sitting in math and language arts for most of their day. Unfortunately, that time in the school gym or on the playground isn't always the safest from a parent's perspective. We have a rundown on a number of lawsuits pending in school districts across the country, due to what has been perceived as unsafe conditions.


Tucson School Sued over Fight


A simple game of tag on a school playground during a physical education class landed one Tucson student in the hospital, according to a report at AZ Central. The student, 10-year-old Cody Barber, claims that he was attacked by another student during a game of tag at his elementary school in the Tucson Unified School District. The attacker allegedly knocked Cody to the ground and then kicked him once. Barber's spleen was severely lacerated, which required surgery and six days at a nearby medical center to repair.
Barber's mother has accused the school district of negligence in the injury of her son because she said the alleged attacker had a known history of behavioral issues and had been placed "on restriction" by the school. This means the student should not have been participating in the game with the other kids at all, according to Barber's mother. The attorney for the plaintiff, Richard Gonzales, said the attack was totally unprovoked. He and his client have filed the negligence lawsuit against the Tucson Unified School District. At this time, no charges have been filed against the boy.
Dodge Ball Woes in Albany
Another school in New York has also learned the dangers of the age-old schoolyard game dodgeball firsthand. A case from a number of years ago involved a seven-year-old girl who broke her elbow during a dodgeball game in the school gym. The suit did not fault the school for negligence in this case; instead, it questioned whether dodgeball was an appropriate game for elementary-aged students at all, according to a report on MSNBC.
The game was being played on a hardwood court, and the students in the game had "safety zone" to run to for protection from thrown balls. The victim of the accident, Heather Lindamen, became tangled with another child and fell, breaking her elbow. The fracture required surgery, and there is some concern over whether the arm will continue to grow normally, since a growth plate was involved. The family took the case to court in an effort to get the game banned from the school permanently. Dodgeball is currently banned from many elementary and secondary schools across the country.
More Dodgeball Troubles in New York
A Bronx school has also seen its share of dodgeball woes. Last year, a family threatened a lawsuit against a Claremont school that brought more than 100 students into the gym at one time for a dodgeball game during indoor recess. The middle-school students were given hard soccer balls instead of the rubber balls typically used for the game, according to a report in the NY Daily News.
One student, Shane Reese, chose to sit out of the game because of recent dental work he had done after a car accident. Reese was sitting in the bleachers of the gym when a ball flew up and hit him directly in the mouth, shattering the bridge that had recently been placed. The school offered a settlement to the family, but a judge will decide if the settlement is sufficient for the injuries.
Not Enough P.E.?
In an age where many parents are concerned about some of the activities that are taking place in a physical education class today, others are worried that their children aren't getting enough time during the school day for physical activity. In fact, in California, parents are learning that they can take action against a school district that doesn't provide sufficient physical education for students, according to SF Gate.
In a recent suit filed against Sacramento schools, parents were able to take schools to court to force them to provide ample time for physical activity during the school day. California's Education Code requires that students get 200 minutes of physical education every 10 days they are in school. For middle and high school students, that amount goes up to 400 minutes. However, it is up to the school's discretion to determine how the time is used, whether in physical activity, health or teamwork.
Parents do have avenues to pursue when they believe their children are not getting adequate physical education at school. Whether you are concerned about school safety or sufficient physical activity for good health, legal options exist to ensure your children get the best education possible.

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