Parents Held Responsible For Child's Destruction of School Property
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, holding parents liable for damages caused to school property by their child.
In today’s case (Nanaimo-Ladysmith School District No.68 v. Dean) the Defendant played a prank at school by attempting to attach a lock to a sprinkler head. While doing so “the red filament inside the sprinkler head was disturbed and, as sprinkler heads are intended to operate, it immediately began spraying water.” This caused over $48,000 in damage to school property.
The Plaintiff was found negligent and he and his parents were ordered to pay back the money based on the operation of s. 10 of the School Act which reads as follows:
“If property of a board or a francophone education authority is destroyed, damaged, lost or converted by the intentional or negligent act of a student or a francophone student, that student and that student’s parents are jointly and severally liable to the board or francophone education authority in respect of the act of that student.”
Madam Justice Fitzpatrick noted this is a harsh result for the parents who had nothing to do with the damage but the legislative requriements are clear. In reaching this decision the Court provided the following reasons:
 What s. 10 seeks to accomplish is to impose statutory liability for the intentional actions of a student that cause damage to the school, which is a liability imposed beyond whatever liability there might be at common law. The section accomplishes a shifting of risk from the school to the student and that student’s parents arising from the actions of the student. I do not consider that a plain reading of s. 10 results in any other interpretation or a “reading in” of the meaning of “intentional act”, as the Deans assert…
 In my view, there is no ambiguity in s. 10. It simply refers to an “intentional … act”. Accordingly, I conclude that the legislative intention, however draconian it may be, is that the student need not have intended to cause damage by his or her act. The parties agree that, if this interpretation prevails, the parents are liable by a plain reading of s. 10…
 In my view, the School District has proven its case in terms of the applicability of s. 10 of the School Act to the circumstances here.
 I am sure that this is a very unfortunate result for the Dean family and perhaps it will be for other families in the future. This was clearly the result of a young boy misbehaving and thinking that the only grief to come of it would be to Ben and perhaps the janitor in removing the padlock. Obviously, more dire consequences followed. However, if there is to be any change to this provision in the School Act, that is a matter for the legislature, not the courts.
 The action is allowed and judgment is granted against all defendants in the amount of $48,630.47, plus court order interest and costs to be assessed.