Sexual Abuse in Schools |
School is supposed to be a safe haven where children can learn and grow into productive young adults. Unfortunately, sexual abuse may occur in schools because child abusers tend to be attracted to positions of trust and power where they have access to minors.
Upon learning of sexual abuse in schools, parents may experience an overwhelming and urgent need to take protective action. Exploring the full set of options available through seeking criminal and/or civil litigation can be influential in the process of moving forward. Here at Lewis & Llewellyn, a boutique law firm focusing on sexual abuse in San Francisco, we have the resources you need to pursue legal recourse.
Sex in School is Against the Law
Federally, there are a number of laws prohibiting sexual contact in schools:
- Title IX: Title IX states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
- Equal Protection Clause: Often applied to schools, LGBT students are to be protected from harassment by other students or school personnel on the basis of their sex, gender, orientation, or identity.
- The Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017 (S. 537): Legislation signed by President Trump in February 2018 clarifies the legal duty of an athletic association in the prevention of child sexual abuse. All adults authorized to interact with amateur athletes must report allegations of child abuse to the proper authorities.
California state laws barring sexual abuse in schools include:
- Statutory Rape (Penal Code 261.5): Statutory rape is defined as unlawful intercourse with someone under the age of 18. Technically, two students engaging in sexual activity can each be charged with statutory rape, since minors are not legally allowed to “consent.” By California law, penalties increase when the crime is committed between an adult and a minor, or the bigger the age gap.
- Unruh Civil Rights Act: Discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and age is explicitly outlawed. The law applies to all businesses, including schools.
- Education Code 220: No person shall be subjected to discrimination on the basis of gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, or any other characteristic that constitutes a hate crime.
- Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA): Also referred to as the “mandatory reporter law,” California requires a list of mandated reports—people working with children—to contact the police department, county welfare agency, or juvenile probation office to report known or suspected child abuse. Failure to report results in fines and potential jail time.
In some cases, California law protects your right to file as a “Jane or John Doe.” This can keep your identity private, while still allowing you to pursue justice. Contact us to discreetly discuss your case.
Who Can You Sue for Sexual Abuse in Schools?
If you suspect your child or a child you know is being sexually abused at school, report it immediately to the police, and make sure he or she feels safe and not at fault. The district attorney can file charges against the abuser, preventing the predator from sexually assaulting another child.
The civil courts allow for an expanded scope of justice that includes anyone who gave the perpetrator access to children or deliberately turned a blind eye to the abuse. While the goal of criminal court is to punish wrongdoers and exonerate the innocent, the goal of civil courts is to provide financial remedy to victims for their losses. In this case, a child may require counseling to cope with the effects of abuse suffered.
Among those you can sue in civil court are:
Who are California’s Mandated Reporters?
Rarely is a student abused or molested at school without prior warning. Abusers often take the time to groom certain children to be victims of sexual abuse. By creating a close bond and feelings of loyalty with their victims, perpetrators of sexual abuse make it difficult for their victims to understand that the abuse is wrong and should be reported.
In a school setting, heightened legal expectations are placed upon the following people as mandated reporters:
- administrative officials
- attendance supervisors
- campus police
- instructional aides
- licensed practitioners
- nursing staff
- principals and assistant principals
- public and private teachers
- recreational program supervisors
- school security guards
- social workers
- state Department of Education staff
- youth organization leaders
Anyone who knows about or suspects sexual assault, rape, grooming behaviors, exploitation, physical abuse, neglect, or emotional maltreatment must report to the proper authorities. Reporting to other school officials is not enough to satisfy the law. They must report their findings or suspicions to law enforcement, a welfare agency, or juvenile probation department.
Can Adults Sue Schools for Sexual Abuse Years Later?
At Lewis & Llewellyn, we have successfully represented a number of adults seeking reparations for non-recent sexual abuse. It can be difficult to process sexual abuse as it’s happening. The behaviors of an abuser may not seem right, but the level of manipulation and deceit, combined with feelings of shame and fear, may make it difficult for young victims to come forward. With age and time, symptoms of childhood sexual abuse can manifest, making it difficult for adult survivors to hold normal employment, maintain healthy relationships, or cope with day-to-day stressors. It’s never too late to speak up.
A consultation with an experienced legal professional can help you decide if your case is worth pursuing years later. Though there are statute of limitations to consider, there are often ways to file a latent claim, particularly when full knowledge of what happened or the full effects of the abuse aren’t realized at the time of the incident. In 2013, we secured a $2.85 million settlement on behalf of a woman who was victimized by a teacher over a decade prior.
Preventing Sexual Abuse in Schools
Child sexual abuse has grave consequences. Children may manifest the symptoms of sexual abuse in many different ways, including depression, anger, showing inappropriate sexual behaviors, drug and/or alcohol abuse, low self-esteem, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts. Additionally, the child may have serious long-term ramifications such as issues of trust or the inability to form healthy adult relationships.
And while there are laws that attempt to protect children from sexual predators, you should still speak with your children about sexual abuse, appropriate and inappropriate relationships between an adult and child, how to handle uncomfortable situations, and what to do if they feel violated or assaulted.
Work With Experienced Sexual Abuse Attorneys in San Francisco
Lewis & Llewellyn has been taking a stand against sexual abuse in schools for years. We have the experienced litigators, knowledge of the law, and the resources necessary to take on your case and win. We are no strangers to overcoming statute of limitation arguments and other commonly used defenses. While we cannot guarantee a particular outcome, we have won a substantial number of multi-million-dollar awards for our plaintiffs. Childhood sexual abuse litigation is a passion project for us. We are personally motivated to fight for those wounded and hold all guilty parties responsible.
If you are suing a school in California for sexual abuse, one of our experienced attorneys should represent your civil case. Together, we can force schools and school districts to awaken from their apathy and deal with predators in their midst. Together, we can take a brave step toward your family’s healing and put this unspeakable trauma behind you, knowing that justice has been served.
Lewis & Llewellyn has assisted plaintiffs in suing both public and private institutions in California. School districts may try to defer blame or shield themselves from liability by seeking refuge behind various laws, but our multi-million-dollar track record is a testament to our commitment to achieving justice for our clients. If your child has been sexually abused at school, contact us or call +1 (415) 800-0590 for a free evaluation of your case.
Did you know there are no upfront costs with Lewis & Llewellyn?
Every case review and consultation is free. Should we decide to take on your case, you will sign a contract defining payment, but no money is collected. Any fees required are factored into the settlement or compensation amount.
You have nothing to lose and everything to gain from speaking with an experienced attorney regarding your legal options.
DISCLAIMER: The information in this blog is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this blog or on this website should be construed as legal advice from Lewis & Llewellyn LLP. Neither your receipt of information from this website, nor your use of this website to contact Lewis & Llewellyn LLP creates an attorney-client relationship between you and the firm or any of its lawyers. No reader of this website should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this website without seeking the appropriate legal advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s jurisdiction.