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Sexual Abuse and Schools

James F. Humphreys & Associates, L.C. has represented victims injured by the wrongful misconduct of others for more than 40 years. Although many of our cases involve physical injuries, we know that emotional scars can be just as devastating, and that sexual abuse by trusted adults can adversely affect children for the rest of their lives.  

Sexual abuse can occur in both public and private schools, in both religious and secular institutions, and in both residential and non-residential campuses. Sexual abuse can occur between teachers and students, between students, and between adult employees. 

According to the Executive Summary from a 2017 study titled “A Case study of K-12 School Employee Sexual Misconduct: Lessons Learned from Title IX Policy Implementation”: 

An estimated 10% of K-12 students will experience sexual misconduct by a school employee by the time they graduate from high school. Such misconduct can result in lifelong consequences for students including negative physical, psychological, and academic outcomes. To prevent incidents from occurring, school districts are tasked with complying with Title IX, a federal law that provides guidelines for prevention efforts and responses to school employee sexual misconduct in K-12 schools. Key elements of Title IX guidance include requirements for 1) comprehensive policies and procedures, 2) prevention efforts, 3) training for staff, student, and parents, 4) timely reporting, 5) thorough and coordinated investigations, and 6) effective response.

A frequently overlooked aspect of sexual abuse in schools is the extent of sexual abuse committed by students against other students, which seems to be more common than sexual abuse by adults against students. According to an investigative report by the Associated Press, which looked at state education records and federal crime data, there were about 17,000 official reports of sexual assaults by students over a four year period running from the fall of 2011 to the spring of 2015.   AP’s analysis of federal crime data indicated seven assaults by students for every adult- on- child sexual attack.  These numbers, large as they are, seriously understate the size of the problem because sexual attacks in schools are underreported. Although school districts are required to track many kinds of data about students, including who receives free lunches, there is no federal mandate to monitor sexual assaults, and victims are often understandably reluctant to come forward.  When assaults are reported by victims, they may be characterized by the school as bullying, hazing, or consensual acts.   

Sexual abuse in schools, whether committed by students or teachers, can have long-lasting consequences for the victims, such as lost job opportunities, social isolation, shame, and depression. Even when abuse is committed by other students, schools can be held responsible if they knew, or should have known, of a problem and failed to address it.  

Cases involving victims who are minors involve special issues:

  • Unemancipated minors can not hire an attorney or bring a lawsuit on their own. They must have a parent or guardian do these things for them. 
  • The time for a student to file a lawsuit is usually extended until after he or she reaches 18
  • Even though not currently employed, the student may have a claim for future lost wages because he will be unable to work
  • There are different legal standards for children
  • Settlements with minors must be approved by the court
  • Settlement funds are usually placed in trust for a minor until he or she reaches the age of 18, with the guardian seeking approval for disbursements prior to that time   

In recent years, many states have enacted laws which extend the time for filing sexual abuse lawsuits. In some cases, these statutes provide limited windows of one or two years to bring claims that would otherwise be time-barred. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured by school-related sexual abuse, you should promptly contact legal counsel to see whether you might be entitled to compensation.  

If you or a loved one has suffered school-related sexual abuse, please call us at 304-347-505 (local) or 877-341-2595 (toll-free) for a free initial consultation. You may also contact us online. We allow a victim to achieve financial compensation without publicity or confronting lawyers.

Toll Free: +1 (800) 763-4500

Email: [email protected]

Sources

The Associated Press, Sexual Assault by Fellow Students: 17,000 Reports in 4 Years, AP Investigation Finds, May 1, 2017 https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/sexual-assault-fellow-students-17-000-reports-4-

Grant, Wilkerson, Pelton, Cosby & Henschel, A Case Study of K-12 School Employee Sexual Misconduct: Lessons Learned from Title IX Policy Implementation (December 2017)