North Van school district sues parents of teens who set fire to elementary school

The North Vancouver School District is suing the parents of four teens who set fire to the roof of Dorothy Lynas Elementary School two years ago, causing about $70,000 in damage.

The lawsuit against the four teens and their parents was filed in B.C. Supreme Court Sept. 5 seeking damages for the fire.

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In the lawsuit, the school district stated that the four teens trespassed on the school grounds on Sept. 11, 2016 and “intentionally and/or negligently set the roof of the school on fire.”

Parents of the teens “had a duty to supervise and control the actions of their children and were negligent in that they failed to adequately do so and prevent the damage to the school caused by their children,” according to the school district’s statement of claim.

The decision to file the lawsuit was made by the school district’s insurers, in an attempt to recoup some of their costs, said Deneka Michaud, spokeswoman for the school district.

The lawsuit stems from events that happened on a Sunday night two years ago – when the four boys, then 13, climbed up to the top of the school’s roof and started a bonfire.

At one point in the revelry, they tossed an aerosol can into the fire, which exploded, setting fire to the roof of the school’s gym, according to police who spoke to the North Shore News at the time. The kids fled and a neighbour called 911 around 5:30 p.m. after seeing smoke and flames.

District of North Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services crews scrambled up to the roof and quickly doused the fire. The blaze mainly damaged the exterior of the roof, although the school’s gym also suffered some water damage.

No one was hurt in the fire and students were back in class the next morning.

Dorothy Lynas roof damage
Damage to the roof of Dorothy Lynas after a fire in September 2016. - photo supplied

All four teens, who were students in the school district, were quickly identified by police at the time, and described as “remorseful.”

Because of their young age, the boys were dealt with through diversion, where actions and consequences are addressed outside of the court system, said Cpl. Richard De Jong, spokesman for the North Vancouver RCMP.

The teens’ parents were described by police at the time of the fire as “none too pleased.”

They may be even less pleased now. Under the School Act, parents are responsible for the actions of their kids.

“It is important for students and parents to know that they are liable for damage to buildings,” said Michaud.

The issue has already been tested in a previous case in B.C. Supreme Court.

In 2015, a B.C. Supreme Court justice ruled that parents of a 14-year-old Nanaimo boy who caused water damage with a prank involving attaching a friend’s lock to a sprinkler head had to pay $48,000 to the school district.

In the Nanaimo case, the judge ruled that the teen could have reasonably foreseen the consequences of his actions.

In some cases, parents’ homeowner insurance will cover liability for damage done by their children to other people’s property. But that depends on the insurance policy. It can also vary depending on whether the damage is considered “intentional” or not and whether the child who caused the damage was 13 or older at the time.

No statement of defence has been filed yet by the parents.

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