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.
What Are the Warning Signs of Educator Sexual Misconduct?
Educator sexual misconduct is not something any parent wants to think about. It is a travesty that should not occur under any circumstances. Sadly, unwanted physical sexual attention at school happens to about 1 in 10 students. Nearly 3.5 million students report education sexual misconduct that does not include physical touching, such as sexual talk, sharing pornography, or masturbation. These numbers are shocking, and point to a serious issue with educator sexual misconduct in our schools. Learning the warning signs as a parent or teacher can help you identify and put an end to this tragedy.
Problems in School
While not all issues with grades or teachers signal educator sexual misconduct, abrupt changes in your child’s behavior or performance in school could be signs of abuse. Around 43% of child abuse victims avoid the educator, and 36% don’t want to go to school. If your child talks about not wanting to see a certain teacher but cannot explain why, it may signify child abuse. A child who previously enjoyed school but who now does not want to go may also be an abuse victim. Other signs include:
- Not talking a lot in class (34%).
- Trouble paying attention in class (31%).
- Staying home from school or skipping class (29%).
- Difficulty studying or concentrating (29%).
- Trouble with school authorities (25%).
- Lower grades in class, or on tests/assignments (25%).
It is worthwhile to consider educator sexual misconduct when trying to get to the bottom of your child’s unexplained difficulties in school. If your child won’t tell you what’s wrong directly, investigate the educator in question or take your suspicions to authorities at the school. Swift action is imperative to prevent further physical or psychological injures to victims.
Physical and Emotional Health Effects
Victims of educator sexual misconduct may exhibit health problems, such as loss of appetite or trouble sleeping. Many targets and victims also report experiencing negative self-feelings because of abuse. This can lead to victims feeling embarrassed, self- conscious, less confident, afraid, confused about identity, or skeptical about having happy romantic relationships. Any of these negative feelings may be red flags for educator sexual misconduct.
Children Dropping Hints or Implying Educator Misconduct
One may assume that a child could give a clear, detailed account of his or her abuse. This is not typically the case. Instead, research shows that disclosures from abused children more often come out as a series of hints or the implication that something has happened, without directly stating the nature of the abuse. This might happen from fear of the abuser causing the child harm, or for fear of a negative reaction from adults. Children may test parents’ and teachers’ reactions to their hints, and stop talking about it if the receive a negative or neutral response.
It is critical to investigate hints farther, and ask your child for clarification or more details about an implied situation. Show that you believe your child and are interested in what happened to him or her at school. Children dropping hints may follow with a larger hint or disclose the true nature of what happened if they think the person listening will handle it well. It can be easy to miss these hints, leading to the child not receiving the help he or she needs. Pay close attention to your child’s complaints or strange stories about something that happened with an educator.
Seek Help for Sexual Misconduct Immediately
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, only about 30% of student sexual assault cases get reported to authorities. You can help increase this number and put an end to educator sexual misconduct for good by looking for the warning signs and reporting any suspicious activity to police. Protect your child and the children of others by being vigilant against this terrible problem in the school system.
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 lawyers at our Los Angeles or Newport offices today for your initial free consultation.