Fighting For Important Causes In State And Federal Courts
Protecting students against sexual abuse or harassment is a central duty of educators and staff at colleges and universities. Such legal duties are violated if priests who are known to have an alarming history of sexual abuse and harassment walk free through school premises. According to recent reports, priests with a history of sexual transgressions lived in a retirement home located in the premises of Gonzaga University. Sexually abused or harassed student have claims under Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972 for negligence.
If you or someone you know have been the victim of sexual abuse or harassment at Gonzaga University, contact the Law Office of Andrew Shubin for a thorough review of your potential legal claims. The Shubin legal team has a successful track record in cases of institutional abuse and will fight for your rights when sexual predators are allowed to roam free. For a free consultation, call us today at (814) 867-3115.
Alleged Sexual Abusers at Gonzaga University
According to a recent report from the Center for Investigative Reporting, Jesuit priests accused of sexual abuse and misconduct retired at a house located on Gonzaga University’s campus. These priests had regular unsupervised access to the campus and unsupervised visits with students, and they were permitted to lead prayer services in other settings, including nearby Native American reservations. While there are no reports yet that the priests abused students, the recent reports raise red flags about the serious risks of sexual abuse.
Sexual abuse is an underreported crime. U-News reports that as many as 90 percent of sexual assaults are not reported. Under Title IX’s Cleary Act, every academic institution is supposed to provide reports of sexual abuse. In its required Title IX reports, Gonzaga revealed:
- Seven instances of rape in campus housing in 2015, two instances in 2016 and two in 2017.
- Four rapes that occurred on campus but not at housing locations in 2015, and one in 2016.
- 14 instances of fondling
- Four instances of domestic violence
- 10 instances of dating violence
- Seven instances of stalking on campus
While there were no reports of sexual abuse by priests, that doesn’t mean any student victim of sexual harassment or abuse doesn’t have a legal claim. On the contrary, as long as the claim is within the time required, victims can file a cause of action.
Holding Gonzaga Administrators Accountable
Reportedly, the current president of Gonzaga University maintains that the university officials recently became aware of the risks posed by some of the priests living there. However, at the time of relocation of retired priests in 2016, the university was informed that there were safety plans in place for handling the priests who posed risks.
The recent reports include statements that detail safety plans restricting the priest from public ministry, restricting contact with minors, limiting their travel, and holding monthly meetings with a delegate about adherence to their safety measures. These so-called safety plans offer no assurances, particularly because these plans are no substitute for the protections provided by our criminal justice system, such as a sex offender registry and the incarceration of sexual abusers.
Filing for College Sexual Abuse or Harassment
If you were sexually abused at Gonzaga University, you have multiple claims available depending on what happened. You can file lawsuits under Title IX and also for various forms of negligence and infliction of emotional distress. In spite of the assertion that the school leadership didn’t know sexual predators were living at Gonzaga, there are indications officials knew some were subject to safety plans.
Legal responsibility is imposed if university officials had what is known as “constructive knowledge” of the risk of sexual molestation of students but acted with deliberate indifference by pretending not to know. For example, if reports were ignored or if the so-called safety plans were known to many but intentionally overlooked, it may constitute a violation under Title IX.
Colleges and universities have a legal duty to take precautions and by keeping campuses free of known sexual predators. School officials owe students a duty of reasonable supervision that is sensible, rational, and reliable as related to the student’s age and circumstances. It’s hard to believe that no one was aware that sexual predators were among the priests retired at Gonzaga.
The question that arises is whether there was a failure to act at all. Generally, the law holds that a person is not liable for an omission to act where there is no specific legal duty. However, school officials and educators must use reasonable means to attempt to prevent harm, even if the school official doesn’t know the student.
If you have been abused, you can recover compensatory and punitive damages with a successful Title IX claim. Compensatory damages include costs of medical care, lost wages (back and future wages), and emotional pain and suffering.
There is every indication that there was a callous and reckless disregard for safety when sexual predators were not reported to the authorities and allowed unsupervised contact with students. In these types of cases, victims can recover punitive damages where juries can take into consideration the degree of reprehensibility of actions or omissions and assign a monetary award to such a finding.
Trusted Attorney Fighting Sexual Abuse and Harassment at Gonzaga University
The Law Office of Andrew Shubin has a reputation for providing high-quality legal services. You can rest easy while we do our work since our fees are only paid if we are successful. To schedule a free consultation, contact us today at (814) 867-3115.