Sexual Abuse and Molestation at Los Angeles Schools
The sexual abuse or molestation of students has reached a staggering high throughout the country. Parents place their children in schools and school programs with the thought that their children will be safe from predators and any severe accidents. Students who are the victims of sexual abuse do not believe it to be as severe as it is, and often do not understand the influential behavior a teacher or other faculty member may have on them. It is important to stop and prevent the instance of sexual abuse or molestation in schools, and to hold the school district accountable for hiring faculty members who behave in this manner.
School Sexual Abuse
The United States Department of Education released a report in 2014 which highlighted the incidence of sexual abuse by school personnel and how schools could curb the amount of. In 2004, the Department of Education estimation that nearly 10 percent of students throughout the country were victims of sexual abuse. However, many cases go unreported and the actual number is likely higher. Sexual abuse by teachers and staff can take many forms, often beginning by innocent over-attention, including love letters or “grooming.” It is easy for an adult to exert influence over a student, who may see the attention as welcome, despite the criminal bars to the sexual act.
School District Negligence
A recent Los Angeles Unified School District negligence case made headlines during the trial because of the tactic the school district used in blaming the student for the sexual abuse which occurred. Throughout the trial, the school district admitted evidence of the minor’s sexual history in an attempt to shift blame from the school district to the student who was 13 years old when the sexual abuse began. While the district court sided with the school district, the Court of Appeals reversed this decision, awarding the student and her family damages appropriate for the assault. The Court of Appeals reiterated the standard that the law in California protects minors, and it is the burden of the adult to prevent an inappropriate relationship from occurring.
The school district is therefore responsible for the actions of its staff when one member conducts a special relationship against a student. The school district holds a responsibility to each of its students, to protect them from sexual abuse or molestation by a faculty member or a fellow student.
Criminal Versus Civil Penalties
In instances of sexual abuse and molestation at school, the faculty member who was responsible for the abuse will often face criminal charges. Civil charges may be brought concurrently against the school district for their negligence in hiring the faculty member.
To rise to the California standard of negligent hiring, the victim must be able to prove the following:
- The faculty member/teacher was incompetent to perform the job;
- The school district should have known of this incompetence and the risk of harm; and
- The student was harmed as a result.
The family of the injured student may be able to submit a negligence claim in order to receive damages for medical care, emotional distress, and pain and suffering.
Los Angeles School Sexual Abuse Attorneys
Instances of sexual abuse by a school teacher has continued to rise in recent years, and the school districts must be held accountable for their negligent hiring. Students are at impressionable ages throughout K-12 grades, and often do not understand the dramatic impacts of sexual abuse and molestation at such a young age. The Los Angeles school sexual abuse attorneys of Panish Shea & Boyle will work closely with your family to determine the appropriate course of action to ensure that the school is held responsible for their actions. Contact our Los Angeles or Irvine offices today for your initial free consultation.