In a recent article, Slate examines schoolteachers and qualified immunity (QI). As Slate notes, the fight to end QI mostly focuses on bad cops. However, “it is important to keep in mind that qualified immunity extends beyond just police-civilian interactions,” says Georgina Yeomans, who wrote the article.
Public officials rely on QI as well. For example, FBI agents and prison guards. Plus, schoolteachers. And as Georgina Yeomans writes, “the doctrine is also wreaking havoc on children in school.” In her article, Yeomans gives several unsettling examples of this.
In one case, a bad teacher seized a first grader by the neck, threw the child to the floor, and then held him in a chokehold. Yet this bad teacher didn’t face accountability. Furthermore, the 5th Circuit Court granted this bad teacher qualified immunity.
In another case, a bad school resource officer tased a special ed. student multiple times. Even after the student stopped struggling. The student’s family sued for excessive force. Again, the 5th Circuit Court ossed the lawsuit. What’s more, the court said the bad school officer was entitled to qualified immunity.
“Typically, Fourth Amendment excessive force claims arise in the law enforcement context,” Georgina Yeomans explains. Still, “the amendment [also] applies to state actors…not just the police.” Thus, this should also apply to public school employees. They, too, are “state actors.” Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. As the previously mentioned cases indicate, “the 5th Circuit has been unwilling to say that students have a Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force in school.”
Qualified immunity protects all bad actors, from police officers to schoolteachers. Repealing the doctrine is a matter of public safety. Ending QI for all will keep our communities safe from corrupt cops. On top of that, “abolishing [qualified immunity] will also help deliver on the promise of school as a safe space for learning and thriving,” Georgina Yeomans points out in Slate.
Read the entire article on schoolteachers and qualified immunity here.