What’s Happening with Redlands Unified Is Tragic, But Not Surprising

What’s Happening with Redlands Unified Is Tragic, But Not SurprisingAs attorneys who represent survivors of sexual abuse, some of the most complex cases we handle involve school districts. Parents expect that their children will be at least relatively safe from harm when they’re in school, so these cases – ones involving abusive teachers and schools engaged in coverups – can be particularly challenging for victims.

Because of the nature of our work, we are well aware of Redlands Unified’s long history of covering up sexual abuse. Now, thanks to a recent CBS documentary, the rest of the country is aware of it, too.

According to CBS News, the California Department of Justice is investigating the Redlands Unified School District after a recent documentary shed light on how the administrators covered up their child sexual abuse cases. Called a Pledge of Silence: Sex Abuse and Cover-Up in America’s Schools, the documentary talked about over 50 students who were abused by more than 25 different teachers in the Redlands district from 1999 to 2022. Only 11 of the cases were looked into by law enforcement, leading to nine teachers being arrested.

This is tragic to the many victims of these sexual abuses, but it is not surprising at all. Per CBS News:

According to the Department of Education, an estimated 12% of all public school students in the United States experience sexual misconduct by the time they graduate high school. This equates to over 5.7 million children being victimized by their teachers. Currently, the Department of Education is investigating 145 public school districts, including Redlands, for allegations of sexual violence.

After the documentary aired, many parents attended a school district meeting, demanding answers for the claims made by the documentary. In fact, one student came forward during the meeting, stating that she was sexually assaulted at school in the last year.

How common is sexual abuse in schools?

Sexual abuse at school doesn’t always mean physically “at school.” While the acts often take place in classrooms, restrooms, on playgrounds, or locker rooms, a child may be abused while under supervision of administrators, teachers, or other school-affiliated personnel outside of the building. This can include abuse on field trips, at school dances, or while attending school-sponsored events like fundraisers.

Even though schools are supposed to be learning spaces that keep your children safe and harm-free, this is unfortunately not always the case. According to the most recent data, there were almost 15,000 sexual assaults that occurred in schools in 2017 and 2018. This number is alarmingly high, and there are many others who experience sexual abuse at school and never come forward.

Parents place their trust and confidence in the teachers and staff members of schools. They believe that their children will remain safe and protected from assault, violence, bullying, and sexual abuse. Many parents think that they need to protect their children from other students, but the truth is that teachers are being reported for abuse at high rates across Los Angeles and the rest of the country. When this happens, it isn’t uncommon for the perpetrators to avoid punishments and move from school to school, repeating the same patterns of behavior among different children.

The types of school sexual abuse that students may experience

Sexual abuse can happen at any time in public and private schools across Southern California. When school sexual abuse occurs, it means that the student is not giving consent for any sexual conduct. The age of consent in California is 18. Therefore, a young person under the age of 18 cannot legally give consent to any sexual activity. Therefore, any of the following acts – between students or between teachers and students – are acts of abuse:

  • Kissing
  • Uncomfortable or unwanted hugging
  • Sexual touching
  • Groping
  • Indecent exposure
  • Taking or showing child pornography or sexually explicit photos
  • Oral sex
  • Vaginal or anal intercourse

As such, teachers who engage in these abusive acts with students may be subject to criminal charges for rape, attempted rape, or other categories of sexual assault. This means they can be held civilly liable, too.

How California school districts fail to protect students

When a teacher or member of the staff sexually abuses a student, it is not only the abuser who may be held liable; the school district may also share responsibility. The reason for this is because the school districts employ these teachers and staff members, and they are obligated to ensure that the students are protected when the students are in their care. Sadly, many schools in the greater Los Angeles area fail to protect their students. The following are a few of the ways that this happens:

  • Lack of supervision at school and on field trips
  • Failing to ensure that teachers, staff members, and volunteers pass background checks
  • Ignoring reports of sexual abuse
  • Failing to look into sexual abuse claims
  • Hiding sexual abuse claims and evidence
  • Helping perpetrators find employment at other schools
  • Continuing to employ a teacher or staff member after receiving reports of sexual abuse

In each of these scenarios, the abuser, the school administrators, and potentially the district itself can be held liable in civil court.

How our Los Angeles school sex abuse attorneys can help

Taylor & Ring has spent decades honing its skills when it comes to holding abusers accountable. We have taken on some of the most high-profile and challenging cases there are, and secured record-setting verdicts and settlements on behalf of our clients. We do this by launching a thorough investigation into your case, reviewing medical records, educational records, and any texts, videos, or surveillance that may be available. We look at the history of the abusers: were they passed from school to school? Is there a record of suspicious activity? Are their transcripts/recordings between parents, teachers, and/or administrators? Did a mandated reporter speak with supervisors, law enforcement, or Child Protective Services? Are there other students who have made similar complaints in the past?

Understand that this is just the beginning of the investigation, because every case is different. The one thing that is always the same when you work with our team is the respect and dignity with which we treat you, your case, and your future. Coming forward to report abuse is an act of bravery; we are here to provide the support you deserve at every step of the process.

A school sexual abuse attorney from Taylor & Ring will help you and your family stand up against school districts that have put your child in danger. Our team has the experience, knowledge, and resources to fight for the justice you and your child deserves. Once you hire our attorneys, we will help you investigate, collect evidence, and build a strong case against the responsible parties. Call our Los Angeles office or complete our contact form to schedule a consultation today.