Sexual abuse cases involving teachers are being reported across the country. If you or a loved one is a victim of school sexual assaults, the information in this article may help you determine what you should do next. In this article, our attorney discusses:

  • Recent Sexual Abuse Cases Reported in California Schools
  • Are Students Safe from Sexual Abuse by Teachers and School Staff Members?
  • A Look at the Numbers: Sexual Abuse in Schools
  • Who Are the Parties Responsible for Your Child’s Pain and Suffering?
  • Signs and Symptoms of Sexual Abuse by Teachers
  • What Should You Do If You Suspect Your Child Has Been Abused by a Teacher?
  • Criminal Charges vs. Civil Lawsuits for School Sexual Abuse Cases

Recent Sexual Abuse Cases Reported in California Schools

In a recent California case, the Redlands Unified School District settled lawsuits involving three teachers who were accused of molesting eight students. The lawsuits alleged that school officials failed to report the incidents of sexual abuse of students by school staff members. In one case, a teacher pled guilty to three misdemeanors and eight felonies for sexually abusing four female students. Students were apparently dissuaded from going to the police, press, or telling anyone about the sexual abuse.

In another California case, a teacher was arrested and accused of having a sexual relationship with a teen student for more than three years. A Georgia teacher who was named as “Teacher of the Year” stands accused of three counts of sexual assault. In Illinois, a teacher was arrested for having sex with a student numerous times at school, hotels, and his apartment. Finally, a Colorado teacher was sentenced to 40 years to life for sexually assaulting five female students.

A quick internet search reveals hundreds of stories like the ones above about teacher-student sexual assault and sexual assault by other school employees.

Are Students Safe from Sexual Abuse by Teachers and School Staff Members?

It is difficult to believe that an adult who is entrusted to instruct your child could sexually abuse your child. Sadly, cases involving teachers and other school staff members sexually abusing children or having inappropriate sexual relations with teenagers are becoming more common. Tragically, many of these cases go unreported because the child is too afraid to tell someone, or no one believes a child when he or she reports sexual abuse by a teacher.

If a teacher has sexually abused your child, we are here for you. Dealing with matters of child sexual abuse by a teacher can be overwhelming. Claims of sexual abuse by teachers involve criminal and civil laws. In addition, to the legal aspect of an abuse case, parents must also help their children deal with the emotional and mental harm caused by sexual abuse.

The injury attorneys at the Thompson Law Office offer free consultations for parents to discuss the details of their situation in a confidential and compassionate environment. We understand this situation is extremely sensitive and emotional.

Our legal team is trained in handling these matters. We can help you seek justice for your child by holding the teacher, school, and all other parties responsible for your child’s pain and suffering accountable for their actions.

A Look at the Numbers: Sexual Abuse in Schools

When you send your child to school, you expect your child to be in a safe environment where his or her well-being is protected while obtaining an education. Your child deserves to feel safe when he or she is at school. Unfortunately, incidents of sexual abuse by school employees threaten a child’s physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. Sadly, it is estimated that millions of children will be victims of sexual abuse by a teacher or other school employee.

A study of K-12 school employee sexual misconduct (PDF link) found that approximately 10 percent of students will be victims of sexual misconduct by a school employee before they graduate. When you consider that approximately 56 million children attend school in the United States, 5.6 million children will be sexually assaulted by school employees before they graduate from high school.

Some of the other important points in the report include:

  • Only about five percent of incidents of sexual abuse in schools that are known to school employees are reported to law enforcement officials.
  • A single sexual offender can have up to 73 victims.
  • Community members and staff were hesitant to believe the sexual abuse occurred.
  • Teachers or other employees who received awards or who are popular are likely to commit acts of sexual abuse.
  • All types of school employees can be sexual offenders, including teachers, principals, coaches, and counselors.
  • School employees who have one-on-one time with students are more likely to engage in sexual misconduct.
  • Many administrators hesitate to report incidents of sexual abuse out of fear of the response by the media or the community.
  • Many sexual offenders “groom” students who are eager to please by providing attention and rewards.

The report provides a bleak view of sexual abuse in our schools and the lack of procedures and policies to address the matter. When you consider that victims of sexual abuse are more likely to have serious problems with substance abuse, depression, trust issues, eating disorders, and poor self-esteem, schools should be doing more to prevent sexual abuse by teachers and other school employees. Our children deserve to be protected from sexual predators. In addition, children who are victims of sexual abuse by teachers or others deserve to have their voices heard and deserve to see their offenders brought to justice.

Who Are the Parties Responsible for Your Child’s Pain and Suffering?

Sexual abuse in schools can be carried out by many different parties. While we hear instances of sexual abuse by teachers and coaches, there are other parties who might be responsible for the abuse. The person committing the abuse can be held liable for the abuse. However, the school administration and the school district may also be held liable in a school-related sexual abuse case.

School officials are responsible for ensuring a safe learning environment. When children are abused, school officials can be held liable for failing to ensure the safety of children while at school. The duty to ensure a child’s safety from sexual assault also extends to school-sponsored field trips, extra-curricular activities, and bus rides.

Signs and Symptoms of Sexual Abuse by Teachers

It can be very difficult for a child to tell a parent or other adult that he or she is being sexually abused. In some cases, the child may not realize that a teacher or other adult is committing sexual assault, especially very young children.

Children are taught to respect and obey their teachers and other school officials. Therefore, they may believe their teacher when the teacher tells them that what is happening is “good” or “normal.” Some teachers convince students that the sexual assault is a secret they share or threaten the child in some way if he or she tells anyone what is happening. In cases of sexual assault by teachers of older students, teachers often convince a teenager that they are “in love” so the sexual relationship is proper.

Regardless of the methods used by a teacher or other school employee to commit the sexual assault, students often exhibit signs and symptoms of sexual abuse. While these signs may not necessarily mean that a teacher is sexually assaulting your child, these symptoms can be an indication that you need to ask questions and pursue matters to determine if your child is in danger.

Some signs that could be an indication of abuse include:

  • Unusual or new fears of going to school
  • Sudden changes in moods
  • Increased insecurity or withdrawal
  • Unexplained problems with sleep, nightmares, or night terrors
  • Feelings of being “dirty,” or “bad” or feelings that certain body parts are dirty or bad
  • Avoiding being touched or hugged
  • Refusing to eat or trouble swallowing
  • Unusual or new fear of a person
  • Dreams, writes, draws, or talks about sexual acts
  • Unexplained depression, anxiety, fear, aggression, and anger
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts of suicide
  • Running away from home
  • Lack of interest in sports or other favorite activities
  • Changes in school performance, including a drop in grades or failing to finish assignments
  • Stops caring about appearance
  • Substance abuse

It can be extremely difficult or nearly impossible for a child to admit that he or she is being sexually assaulted by a teacher. You may question your child, and your child may continue to deny the assault. However, if your child continues to exhibit any signs that something could be amiss, you need to continue to pursue the matter until you uncover the truth.

In some cases, a child psychologist can help a child deal with the feelings of guilt and admit what is happening to them. Many children who experience sexual abuse have PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), depression, and other mental conditions. A mental health professional experienced in dealing with sexual abuse cases may be able to help uncover the sexual abuse and treat the symptoms of the abuse.

What Should You Do If You Suspect Your Child Has Been Abused by a Teacher?

If you suspect sexual abuse by a school employee or your child tells you about sexual abuse, your reaction is particularly important. You do not want to appear to blame or criticize your child. It is understandable that you will be angry; however, your child may believe you are angry with him or her instead of the teacher. Therefore, you must be careful not to overreact or demand details. However, you also do not want to downplay the disclosure or minimize your child’s feelings.

Instead, listen to your child calmly and allow your child to tell you the facts at his or her own pace. You need to reassure your child that what happened is not his or her fault. Also, continue to reassure your child that you love him or her and that nothing will change that fact. Never assume your child knows you support and love him or her and that you do not blame him or her for what has occurred. Even though you know this fact, your child may doubt it and need to hear your declaration of love and support.

You should report the sexual abuse immediately to local law enforcement officers and seek medical care for your child. You should also report the abuse to the appropriate child service organizations. If you need assistance or you do not know where to turn, you can also get help from RAINN (National Sexual Assault Hotline) by calling 1-800-656-4673 or ChildHelp by calling 1-800-422-4453.

Criminal Charges vs. Civil Lawsuits for School Sexual Abuse Cases

Sexual abuse by a teacher or other adult is a criminal matter. Law enforcement agencies investigate the claim, and a prosecutor determines if there is sufficient evidence to charge the person with a crime. However, sexual assault cases can also include a civil component.

Personal injury laws throughout the United States allow victims of teacher-student sexual assault to file lawsuits against the offender, administrators, school districts, and other parties who failed in their duty to protect students from sexual assault. Families and victims may be entitled to substantial compensation for injuries and damages caused by a teacher-student sexual assault.

Money will not erase what has happened to your child. However, a monetary judgment can help provide the care and treatment your child may require. In some cases, children of sexual abuse require ongoing psychological treatment throughout their lives to deal with the devastating consequences of sexual abuse by a school employee.

It is important for you to contact an injury lawyer who has experience handling school sexual assault cases. Law enforcement agencies and other child services agencies investigate these matters from the viewpoint of bringing criminal charges. The elements of a criminal case are different from the elements of a civil case. Therefore, you want to retain an attorney who understands the elements required to prove wrongdoing in a civil case investigating the case. You should not rely on law enforcement agencies to conduct the investigation on your behalf or to share important information that you need to prove a claim in a civil lawsuit.

Do I Have a School Child Sexual Abuse Lawsuit?

The Thompson Law Office is currently accepting cases of sexual abuse by teachers and other school employees. Our personal injury attorneys have experience handling these types of cases, and we are here to help you and your child as your family goes through an incredibly painful and emotional experience.

We encourage you to contact our office to speak with one of our experienced injury lawyers. Call 1-650-513-6111 to speak with an attorney now.