With the recent legislative session, there has been an important change regarding filing civil claims against charter schools. In order to file a civil lawsuit against a public entity or employee under state law, a proper claim must first be filed. Until recently, this Notice of Claim requirement only included school districts as a “public entity” but did not extend to charter schools. However, with the recent passing of House Bill 2208, the term “public school” has now been included in the Notice of Claim requirements.
“School” or “Public School” is defined by A.R.S. § 15-101(21) as “any public institution established for the purposes of offering instruction to pupils in programs for preschool children with disabilities, kindergarten programs or any combination of elementary grades or secondary grades one through twelve.” A “Charter School” is defined as “a public school established by contract . . . to provide learning that will improve pupil achievement.” (A.R.S. § 15-101(4)).
Arizona law requires persons who have claims against a public entity or public employee are required to file notice of those claims within 180 days after the cause of action accrues with the appropriate person authorized to accept service. A cause of action “accrues when the damaged party realizes he or she has been damaged and knows or reasonably should know the cause, source, act, event, instrumentality or condition that caused or contributed to the damage.” (A.R.S. § 12-821.01).
The term “public entity” includes state and political subdivisions, i.e. school districts, but not charter schools. Therefore, prior to the recent change in the law, persons with a civil claim against a charter school were not limited to the 180 day notice requirement. However, now that the term “public schools” has been incorporated into A.R.S. § 12-821.01, anyone with a civil claim against a charter school must file notice of that claim with the charter school within 180 days of the date the cause of action occurred. This change to the law became effective on July 3, 2015.
If you have further questions about the Notice of Claim statute in Arizona, or if your school has received a Notice of Claim, you should contact your legal counsel for legal advice.
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