Study results published last week by the Journal of Pediatrics indicate that violence may account for as many as ten percent of the injuries U.S. children receive at school. Dr. Siraj Amanullah, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Hasbro Children's Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island, examined causes of children's visits to hospital emergency rooms. Our office has represented many children who were injured at school by criminal acts committed by a fellow student. In graduate school, I studied the potential impact of restorative justice in minimizing such wrongdoing in schools. Here are a few things parents may consider about about violence schools that may result in injuries to children.
- Restorative justice may provide the best framework for school safety. Get involved in your child’s school BEFORE something happens and discover how the school disciplines children. Restorative justice provides an effective way to address criminal wrongdoing that focuses not on punishment but on responsibility. Nearby school systems, including Fairfax County have adopted restorative justice policies to reduce violence in the schools.
- If your child is injured, the schools will probably refer the matter to law enforcement to proceed. If the offender is a juvenile, the state may file a petition to and the courts will decide how to address the wrongdoing. The focus of juvenile courts in most situations is rehabilitation and in most cases juvenile matters are confidential. Our office often works with victims to be certain that their concerns are included in the court’s decision making process.
- If your child is injured, seek prompt medical attention. Health insurance may cover all or most of your bills. If there are uncovered bills, the crime victim fund may pay for those. In West Virginia, the fund will pay your attorney fees to assist you with the application for those funds. The fund may also reimburse you for lost wages that you have when you need to take your child to the doctor.
- If your child needs counseling, don’t wait! Most crime victim’s funds will cover mental health costs incurred by victims of crime. Counseling may even be reimbursed when your child witnessed a crime and is suffering from trauma, even if he or she was not the intended victim.
- In some case, the school system may have been negligent in managing the school. An attorney can help you determine whether the school was negligent and whether or not a civil case may help recover other expenses that your child suffers, including pain and suffering.
The laws impose strict time limits as to when you can bring a civil case or file a victim’s application. If you have any questions, you should contact an attorney to help you make these important decisions that could affect your child the rest of his or her life. There is no fee for an initial consultation with our office and we can help you evaluate what is best to ensure your child a full recovery and a good experience with his or her education. Contact us today to assist you making this important decision. You may also find more information and download materials about children's rights and crime victims on our website.