California Has a Real Problem with Sexual Abuse in Its Schools
Over the past few years, law enforcement officials have taken sexual abuse allegations in schools much more seriously than before. One of the most recent sexual assault allegations concerning students involve a sexual assault that reportedly took place at Mater Dei High School. Last August, a Mater Dei football player was the victim of a sexual assault by his own teammates.
According to police documents, the student was forced to the floor of a locker room while the teammates exposed their genitals. As the victim was held down, one of the players “began humping” him from behind. Although the victim reported that he was not physically injured, he expressed that he was suffering from anxiety and eventually left the school.
Unfortunately, sexual abuse has become more common in academic institutions. The U.S. Department of Education discovered in the Civil Rights Data Collection that the number of sexual assault reports in elementary, middle, and high schools experienced a sharp increase from 2015 to 2018. There are various types of sexual assault incidents that take place at academic institutions of all levels.
Common forms of sexual abuse in schools
Some of the common acts of sexual abuse that take place in schools include sexual harassment, sexual abuse between teachers and students, and sexual abuse between other students.
Sexual abuse between teachers and students
When we think of sexual misconduct in schools, the most common example that comes to mind is sexual abuse between teachers and students. It has not been until recently that sexual misconduct between teachers and students has been taken seriously. Even as far as a few decades ago, these types of relationships were often downplayed in the media and romanticized in the movies. The reality is that these types of inappropriate relationships are predatory and represent an imbalance of power. If students attempt to deny their teachers’ sexual advances, it can result in bad grades or other serious repercussions.
Sexual abuse between other students
Even more alarming is the increase of sexual assault incidents between other students. There are many occasions during school hours where other students can sexually assault other students. Students can sexually abuse others on the playground, in school bathrooms, or even on school buses. One of the reasons why these acts of sexual abuse happen on school grounds is due to a lack of supervision.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are several factors that contribute to perpetration of sexual violence. Some of the factors range from individual risks, like a lack of empathy or prior sexual assault, to community risks like tolerance of sexual violence.
Sexual harassment consists of any unwanted sexual behavior. Inappropriate sexual acts like sexually suggestive comments, unwanted touching, and sending sexually explicit images can be considered forms of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment can occur between a student and a teacher or a student and another student. When sexual harassment happens in a classroom or on campus, it makes everyone uncomfortable and creates a hostile environment.
Can you sue a school administration when negligence leads to sexual abuse?
When it comes to sexual abuse in schools, everyone plays a role in prevention and responsibility. In many sexual assault cases, it is revealed that the school administrators were complicit, especially when the sexual misconduct involved teachers. In such cases, you can name the school’s administration in your civil lawsuit.
There are several ways that this negligence contributes to the rise of sexual abuse in schools:
- Failing to report abuse to law enforcement. It is very rare for a teacher to sexually abuse just one student at a school. Students who report sexual abuse are often ignored by school administrators.
- Failing to report sexual abuse to the perpetrator’s future employers. Often, teachers who sexually abuse students are transferred to other school districts to commit the same acts to different students. For various reasons, school administrators do not disclose a teacher’s sexual abuse allegations to the teacher’s future employers. The teacher may be popular or efficient in teaching students, and the administration may ignore the teacher’s allegations for political reasons.
- Failing to report sexual abuse to state licensing boards. In a perfect world, teachers accused of sexual abuse will lose their teaching licenses and be prohibited from working in positions that involve children for the rest of their lives. However, that is not the case. Instead, even if teachers do lose their licenses, they find other occupations that allow them to remain around minors.
- Failing to run proper background checks. School administrators are required to run background checks on new hires to ensure that any oncoming teachers do not present a risk to students and the school faculty. School administrators who fail to properly investigate a teacher’s background check can be found liable for negligent hiring if the teacher’s background check contains prior sexual abuse allegations.
Title IX and sexual violence
Another way that schools can be held liable for sexual abuse is through a Title IX complaint. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a federal law that prohibits discrimination in regards to sex in educational institutions. Title IX regulations must be followed by all public schools, private schools, colleges, and universities who receive federal funding. Title IX defines sexually inappropriate acts like sexual harassment and sexual violence as discrimination on the grounds of sex.
School administrator’s responsibilities under Title IX
When students file a Title IX complaint, there are certain procedures that school administrators are required to perform. Some of these procedures involve responding quickly to any complaint of sexual harassment or assault, resolving complaints in a prompt and fair manner, and conducting an investigation into the sexual harassment or assault complaint.
Taylor & Ring has successfully litigated many high-profile cases involving sexual abuse in schools. Our main priority is to help you seek the justice that you and your child deserve after being harmed by a dangerous predator. We have held both accusers and the academic institutions that protected them accountable for their actions. If your child has been sexually abused at school, call our office today at 310-776-6390, or complete our contact form to schedule a free, confidential consultation. We serve clients in Los Angeles and throughout Southern California.
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John C. Taylor is one of the most accomplished and nationally recognized trial lawyers in California. The broad variety of cases he has tried during his career is matched by few attorneys, trying more than 125 cases to verdict, including: police shootings and civil rights, sexual abuse, serious personal injury, wrongful death, products liability, insurance bad faith, and employment.
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