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School Sexual Abuse Lawyers
Has your child been injured, sexually abused or molested at a public school, private school or charter school? If so, your child has rights that need to be protected. In addition, your child may be entitled to benefits and financial compensation for their physical injuries, emotional and psychological trauma, pain and suffering. Let our school sexual abuse lawyers help you and your child through this trying time.
Contact our team of school sexual abuse lawyers for a free, confidential consultation. They charge no fees of any kind unless they win for you. Serving all states, Washington DC and Puerto Rico: CA, TX, GA, FL, PA, MI, IL, SC, NC, DE, NJ, NY, WA, VA & MD.
Our Los Angeles, California school sexual abuse lawyers bring virtually unmatched experience and advocacy to bear in child sexual abuse and child molestation cases. Such cases can occur in one or more of the following contexts:
A disturbing video surfaced recently of a teacher’s aide slapping, tackling, and throwing items at a nine-year-old boy at Tobin World, a school for children with disabilities in Antioch, California. Public records from the local police department show that from 2008 to 2014, there were 35 episodes of violence between staff and students at Tobin World’s three campuses reported to the police. Other news reports and recent cases indicate that abuse and mistreatment of students is a serious problem at schools across the entire country.
Every parent wants to feel confident that his or her child’s school is a safe environment with trusted, experienced personnel looking out for every child’s best interests. Unfortunately, reality does not always meet our expectations, and students with special needs or disabilities are particularly vulnerable to abuse in schools. All students have the legal right to a school environment free from the misconduct or negligence of school personnel, and remedies are available when a student’s rights have been violated at school.
The California Constitution provides that all students have an “inalienable right to attend campuses which are safe, secure, and peaceful.” Cal. Const. Art. I § 28(f)(1). Further, California law requires that school districts and personnel carefully supervise students while they are on school premises, and districts may be held liable for injuries caused by the failure to exercise such care.See Cal. Ed. Code § 44807; Dailey v. Los Angeles Unified School Dist., 2 Cal.3d 741, 747 (1970). In addition, California courts have held that students with disabilities are uniquely vulnerable to abuse and harassment, making it reasonably foreseeable that a lack of supervision on the part of school employees could lead to harm. See, e.g., Jennifer C. v. Los Angeles Unified School District, 168 Cal.App.4th 1320, 1327-28 (2008); M.W. v. Panama Buena Vista School District, 110 Cal.App.4th 508, 520 (2003).
- Teachers molesting students
- Coaches abusing children
- Administrators assaulting youth
- Clergy members exploiting children
- Neighbors molesting children
- Relatives molesting children
- Foster parents abusing minors
- Children assaulting other children
Types Of School Abuse & Sexual Abuse By Teachers & Coaches
All public school students have the right under the Fourth Amendment to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. A teacher or school official’s excessive and unreasonable corporal punishment of a student violates the student’s Fourth Amendment rights and gives rise to a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Preschooler II v. Clark County School Board of Trustees, 479 F.3d 1175 (9th Cir. 2007); Doe ex rel. Doe v. Hawaii Dept. of Education, 334 F.3d 906 (9th Cir. 2003). Further, even if a school administrator or supervisor did not participate directly in the excessive or unreasonable force, he or she can be held liable for failing to adequately train, supervise, or control his or her subordinates, or for other conduct that shows a reckless or callous indifference to the student’s rights. Preschooler II, 479 F.3d at 1182.
Sexual Abuse or Sexual Harassment by School Personnel
California and federal law protect students from sexual abuse and harassment at school. Title IX provides that no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, or be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a). The U.S. Supreme Court has held that Title IX establishes a private right of action for money damages for violations of its provisions. Cannon v. University of Chicago, 441 U.S. 677 (1979); Franklin v. Gwinnett County Public Schools, 503 U.S. 60 (1992). A student who is sexually harassed or abused by a teacher can bring an action for damages against the district under Title IX if the district has knowledge of, but is deliberately indifferent to, the teacher’s misconduct. Gebser v. Lago Vista Independent School District, 524 U.S. 274 (1998).
Further, a student who has been sexually abused or harassed at school may bring a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of his or her Fourteenth Amendment rights. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that students have a Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process right to bodily integrity, which includes the right to be free from sexual abuse by school personnel. Plumeau v. School Dist. No. 40 County of Yamhill, 130 F.3d 432, 438 (9th Cir. 1997). In addition, a student who experiences severe and pervasive harassment that is motivated by gender may have a cause of action under the Equal Protection Clause. Walsh v. Tehachapi Unified School Dist., 827 F.Supp.2d 1107,1118 (E.D. Cal. 2011).
California law provides similar protections. The Unruh Civil Rights Act provides that all persons are entitled to full and equal services in business establishments regardless of their sex, and that no business establishment shall discriminate against a person based on sex. Cal. Civ. Code § 51 et seq. California courts have found that a school is a “business establishment” for purposes of the Unruh Civil Rights Act. See, e.g., Nicole M. v. Martinez Unified School District, 964 F.Supp. 1369, 1388 (N.D. Cal. 1997). Further, Education Code Section 220 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any program or activity conducted by an educational institution that receives or benefits from state financial assistance. Students who have suffered sexual harassment or abuse by school personnel may be able to recover damages under these California statutes.
Peer-on-Peer Sexual Harassment or Abuse
Even if a school employee was not directly responsible for the sexual harassment or abuse a student suffered, the district may be liable under Title IX for failing to intervene to protect a student from peer-on-peer sexual harassment or abuse. Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, 526 U.S. 629 (1999). A school that receives federal funding can be liable for deliberate indifference to student on student sexual harassment where the school had actual knowledge of the harassment, the harassment was so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it can be said to deprive the victim of access to the educational opportunities or benefits provided by the school, and the school’s response or lack of response was clearly unreasonable in light of the known circumstances. Id.
The state of California offers similar protections against peer on peer sexual harassment under Section 220 of the California Education Code and the Unruh Civil Rights Act. Under Education Code Section 220, an educational institution that receives or benefits from state financial assistance can be liable for peer on peer sexual harassment where the victim suffered severe, pervasive, and offensive harassment that effectively deprived the victim of equal access to benefits and opportunities, the school had actual knowledge of the harassment, and the school acted with deliberate indifference. Donovan v. Poway Unified School District, 167 Cal.App.4th 567 (2008). Further, the Unruh Civil Rights Act’s prohibition on sex-based discrimination has been held to apply where a school fails to adequately respond to complaints of peer on peer sexual harassment. Nicole M. v. Martinez Unified School District, 964 F.Supp.1369, 1388-89 (N.D. Cal. 1997).
Abuse of Students with Disabilities
A student who has suffered abuse at school because of his or her disability may have a cause of action under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability. D.K. ex rel. G.M. v. Solano County Office of Education, 667 F.Supp.2d 1184 (E.D. Cal. 2009). Where a school district has failed to provide services, programs, and activities in a full and equal manner to disabled students, or failed to ensure that services are provided without hostility towards a student’s disability, the district may be liable for damages under the ADA. 42 U.S.C. § 12131 et seq. Similarly, where a school district denies a disabled student equal access to educational services or subjects a student with disabilities to a hostile educational environment, the district may be liable for damages under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. 29 U.S.C. § 794 et. seq.
The state of California also provides protection against disability discrimination in schools through the Unruh Civil Rights Act and Education Code Section 220. Cal. Civ. Code § 51 et seq; Cal. Ed. Code § 220. A student with a disability who has been abused at school may be able to recover damages under these statutes.
Failure to Report Child Abuse
In addition to imposing a duty of supervision on school personnel, California law requires that whenever a teacher, instructional aide, or other school employee knows or reasonably knows that a child has been the victim of abuse or neglect, he or she must report the suspected abuse to the local police department, sheriff’s department, or welfare department. Cal. Penal Code §§ 11165.7, 11165.9, 11166. A mandatory child abuse reporter must report suspected child abuse immediately or as soon as practicably possible by telephone and submit a written follow-up report within 36 hours. Cal. Penal Code § 11166. A school district and its employees may be liable for damages caused by a mandatory reporter’s failure to report suspected child abuse. Wieder v. San Diego Unified School District, No. D056376, 2011 WL 6372878 (Cal. Ct. App. Dist. 4 Dec. 20, 2011).
School Injury Attorneys Protecting Your Child
Some adults who work with or gain access to children on a regular basis receive a level of trust from those children and their parents that is, unfortunately, not always deserved. When the unthinkable happens, it can cause lifelong harm and create complex legal challenges. We understand the damages that can result in such cases, and we know how to master the legal hurdles that follow such incidents.
Our California child sexual abuse lawyers highly experienced in representing victims of child abuse, pornography and molestation. He has written and lectured extensively in this area and has represented numerous victims in such cases, obtaining tens of millions of dollars in compensation for them. If you or your child has been sexually molested or abused by a teacher, administrator, coach, clergy member or neighbor, contact us to discuss your options for obtaining compensation.
Recognized Advocates for Sexual Abuse Victims
Our Pennsylvania child molestation lawyers are committed to upholding the rights of and obtaining fair compensation of child abuse victims. We pursue civil liability cases against institutions such as schools, youth organizations and churches to hold them responsible for failing to adequately supervise the behavior of their staff and ensure the welfare of the children in their care.
Strength and Experience When You Need It Most
The Maryland child sexual abuse lawyers on our team are acknowledged as some of the leading attorneys on behalf of victims of child abuse and molestation. They have written extensively on the subject and has lectured throughout the country to attorneys, educators and others responsible for supervising children. They have successfully litigated and settled many major child sexual abuse cases involving school districts, the clergy, youth organizations, foster care systems, and others, winning several record-setting victories for victims and recovering tens of millions of dollars for those abused by others.
We know you have many questions and we would be happy to schedule a free and confidential initial consultation to discuss your concerns. Contact our Florida child sexual abuse lawyers today to get help from experienced and compassionate attorneys. Please contact our Texas child sexual abuse injury law firm here.
School District Liability in Child Sex Abuse Cases
Every parent wants to feel reassured that his/her child is safe at school. Unfortunately, students with special needs and of young age are sexually assaulted by teachers or school staff. Fortunately, remedies are available to students who have been sexually assaulted by a teacher. If your child has been sexually abused or harassed at school, contact us to learn more about the possible damages he/she may obtain. School districts can be held liable for damages when a student sexually assaults another student, or a teach/faculty member sexually assaults or abuses a student. Read on to learn more about the legal guidelines regarding sexual assault and the penalties school districts may face.
Federal Laws Regarding School District Liability in Child Sex Abuse Cases
Federal and state laws require school districts and personnel to carefully supervise students who are on school premises. School districts that fail to provide such supervision may face potential liability. In addition, some states require school districts to provide an even higher standard of care in the supervision of students with disabilities who are vulnerable to abuse and harassment. It is highly foreseeable that a lack of supervision could lead to harm.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 provides that no person in the U.S. shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, or be denied the benefits of, or by subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a). The U.S. Supreme Court has held that Title IX allows students to obtain money damages against a school district if the district has knowledge of, but is deliberately indifferent to, a teacher’s misconduct. See Gebser v. Lago Vista Independent School District, 524 U.S. 274 (1998).
In Gebser, the high school student had a secret sexual affair with a teacher. Id. The school had no formal procedure in place for reporting sexual harassment or formal anti-harassment as required by federal law. The student and teacher were subsequently discovered having sexual intercourse. The teacher was immediately fired following the incident. The student later filed a lawsuit against the school district claiming she was harassed in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The student sought damages against the school district stating that no person should be subjected to discrimination under and federally funded education program or activity. The District Court ruled in favor of the school district. The Supreme Court granted the plaintiff certiorari.
The issue at trial was whether a federally funded school district pursuant to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 be subject to paying sexual harassment damages to a student who was involved in a secret relationship with a faculty member. The Court ruled in favor of the school district citing that because the district never knew about the student’s sexual relations with the teacher, the district was not liable for sexual harassment damages.
Therefore, in determining liability for a school district, the court will examine whether a school district official, with the ability to take corrective action, knew of the harassing conduct, and despite having such knowledge, deliberately failed to respond in a proper manner.
Students can also bring claims for sexual abuse and harassment against a school district under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in violation of the student’s Fourteenth Amendment rights. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that students have a substantive due process right to bodily integrity including the right to be free from sexual abuse by school personnel.
School districts can also be liable for peer-to-peer sexual abuse matters. School districts who fail to intervene to protect a student from peer-to-peer sexual harassment or abuse can face serious damages. To be held liable, the moving party would have to prove that the school had actual knowledge of the harassment or abuse, and that the harassment or abuse was so severe and offensive that it deprived the student to access to educational opportunities provided by the school. Sufficient evidence must be presented to demonstrate the school district acted in a negligent manner.
Students with disabilities can also file a lawsuit against a school district under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. Any school district that subjects a disabled student to a hostile educational environment may be liable for damages under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. 29 U.S.C. § 794 et. seq.
The school district may also be found liable for teachers and staff failing to report incidents of sexual abuse. Teachers are designated as mandatory reporters. As such, any suspicions of child abuse or neglect must be reported to law enforcement or county welfare department. School districts which fail to report instances of child abuse or neglect may face serious consequences. Certain school districts throughout the U.S. have been ordered to pay millions of dollars to students who have prevailed on sexual abuse claims. Contact us today to find out the potential damages your child may receive for his/her child sex abuse case.
Parents should act promptly if they believe their child is the victim of sexual assault or abuse. Damages your child may be able to obtain include pain and suffering, medical expenses, and emotional duress. The court may even award punitive damages to deter the school district from committing future acts giving rise to sexual assault or harassment. School districts should have and maintain strict policies and procedures regarding reporting sexual assault and abuse.
If your child or loved one has been a victim of sexual harassment or assault, contact our Pittsburgh, PA child injury attorneys for a free and confidential consultation. Depending on the nature of the case, we may be able to obtain a judgment in your child’s favor. Unfortunately, not all school districts enact policies and procedures to make sure students are safe while attending. Fortunately, laws have been passed to protect our most vulnerable population. Contact our Los Angeles, CA child abuse injury attorneys today for a consultation about school district liability in child sex abuse cases.
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