Parental Responsibility for Children’s Actions and Attractive Nuisances: A recent event at Joseph Knox Elementary School in Canton, Georgia

I would like to take a moment to remember the children and staff, 26 total, of Sandy Hook Elementary School who lost their precious lives a year ago tomorrow, December 14, 2012, in what seems like a senseless tragedy that stirred the nation, and a date that has been frozen in time for so many families.  I am the mother of a young child and there is nothing worse than the loss of a child in a person’s life.  It is utterly confusing and one never forgets to ask whether or not there could have been something that could have been done to prevent such a tragedy.  Closer to home here in Canton, Georgia in Cherokee County, last Friday on December 6, 2013 at a well known Cherokee County Elementary School, Joseph Knox Elementary, a student was found in possession of a pocket knife and hatchet on campus.  For more information, you may see the letter that the principal of the school, Tammy Sandell, dated December 9, 2013, addressed to the parents of Knox ES Students.  You may also contact the Cherokee County School Police and reference case number 2013-12-456 for more detailed information of the incident.  As a parent and an attorney, I was sickened by this event no matter how harmless the school and authorities have portrayed the incident.

This brings me to my topic today of Attractive Nuisances.  Please kindly note that both the Sandy Hook Elementary School incident and the local Joseph Knox Elementary School incident appear to have happened as a result of children who were not trespassers, as the Attractive Nuisance Doctrine in Georgia addresses trespassers, and this is a distinguishing factor.  The incidents of Sandy Hook Elementary School and Joseph Knox Elementary School were cases in which the children appeared to have access to weapons in the home which, to some, makes these incidents more abhorrent than an incident of an Attractive Nuisance.  I will discuss the Attractive Nuisance Doctrine momentarily.  I would like to remind parents now, however, that you are responsible for your children and that you must use extreme caution when having weapons of any sort in your home whether it be a pocket knife, hatchet, or gun.  Children learn by example and if allowed to treat weapons as toys or items of attraction to show off to friends, inevitably tragedy may strike and a child or other person could be injured or killed.  This is not what any parent wants to experience so take responsibility for your children and for yourself as a parent if you have any weapons in your possession.  Weapons are not for children.  Furthermore, in many cases, the parents will be held responsible for the actions of a child, which I will discuss below as well, and this would include the actions of a child with a weapon who injures or kills another child or person.  This is senseless and common sense as well as the law will prevail in these instances.