Chynna Seymour
Patrick Stieve
Supreme Court of Nebraska
January 2, 1998

On September 15, 1993, Nancy Patton taught her first grade music class the song and game of “London Bridge.” She instructed them not to act silly; not to yell, scream, or swing their arms too fast. Once she had students she had chosen at random demonstrate the game, she turned her back to write on the blackboard. Robbie L. Johnson was a student in this classroom at the time. He was participating in the game as the child who was being swung atop the linked arms of the other children. The children proceeded to swing Robbie “hard and fast” while he repeatedly told them to stop and called out for help. The music was loud and his plea couldn’t be heard above the singing and laughter of all the children in the room. As the swinging continued, Robbie was propelled into a bookcase, cutting his face above his right eyebrow. The wound caused him to need 50 stitches. He suffered from temporary blurred vision and continual recurring headaches.

Decision and Rationale:
Since the teacher merely gave instruction to the first graders on how to play the game without direct supervision even in the early stages of the game, the courts decided that this was negligent supervision. The court found that as a result of the accident Robbie had sustained injury and damages. He was awarded $1,226.10 for medical expenses, $15,000 for permanent disfigurement, and $5,000 for pain and suffering. The School District of Millard appealed from the judgment.

Impact on Teaching:

We as teachers are responsible for every student, every minute that they are inside our classroom. In this case the teacher turned her head for one minute and in that small amount of time and the accident happened. Everything we do inside our classrooms should be molded around both learning and management. Most of the time we will be the only adult in the room with 20+ kids, designing a classroom built around routine and efficiency will help prevent liability issues in our careers.

Quiz Question: T/F

It is never a liability issue when your kids play physical games will you grade papers at your desk. .