Teacher won’t let kid go to the bathroom. This is a legal issue?

The plaintiff alleged that the teacher would not let her child go to the bathroom to the point that the student suffered a painful urinary tract infection.   The suit was against the district and the teacher. 

Let’s consider that last sentence: “The suit was against the district and the teacher.”  That’s a problem.  If the case alleged a violation of federal law it might be proper for the plaintiff to name both the district and the teacher as defendants. In fact, that happens regularly. But suits under state law in Texas are subject to the “comprehensive election-of-remedies scheme” laid out in the Texas Tort Claims Act.  Look at this: 

If a suit is filed under this chapter against both a governmental unit and any of its employees, the employee shall immediately be dismissed on the filing of a motion by the governmental unit. Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code 101.106(e).

You have to choose your defendant. Sue the school. Or sue the school employee. Can’t do both. 

So that got the teacher out of the suit. What about the district?   The district was dismissed also. Districts are not liable for personal injuries like this unless a motor vehicle was involved.  No motor vehicle—no liability. 

Isn’t it interesting, though, that the common classroom interaction between a student and the teacher about going to the bathroom can end up in court? 

It’s S. Sanchez and Edcouch-Elsa ISD v. Garcia, decided by the Court of Appeals for Corpus Christi and Edinburg on August 5, 2021.  You may wonder why the teacher and district are named first in the case. That’s because the lower court denied the motions to dismiss, and so the teacher and the district took the appeal to the Court of Appeals.


Got a question or comment for the Dawg?  Let me hear from you at jwalsh@wabsa.com

Tomorrow: Pronouns….