Can You Sue if Your Child’s School Failed to Protect Them from Sexual Abuse?

Fighting For Important Causes In State And Federal Courts

Today, there are many rules in place to keep children safe from sexual abuse.  Workers and volunteers at schools, camps, and other institutions need to face background checks and have a record cleared of child abuse just to participate at a school.  Even so, sexual abuse still happens.  When it does, can you sue the school?

Rules vary from state to state, but you often have grounds to sue a school if they failed to protect your child from sexual abuse at school.  There will often be different rules depending on who perpetrated the abuse, with the school often facing liability when staff and faculty are the abusers.  There are also factual questions that need to be answered before a court can hold a school liable.

If you have discovered that your child was sexually abused at school, contact the school sexual abuse victim lawyers at The Law Office of Andrew Shubin today at (814) 826-3586.

Are Schools Liable for Sexual Abuse of Students?

In general, the primary person responsible under the law for sexual abuse is the individual abuser.  In any case, you will usually have the right to sue that abuser even if there is no one else to sue for what happened to your child.  Even so, schools can be held liable in a few different circumstances, though these rules change depending on various factors.

Can You Sue the School if Staff or Faculty Sexually Abused Your Child?

When it comes to sexual abuse by staff or faculty – people who work for the school – you can often sue the school.  Sexual abuse by teachers is a terrible breach of trust and an abuse of authority.  It is the school’s responsibility to make sure that the people they put in close contact with children are safe for those kids to be around, and failing to do so is a separate harm in its own right that can lead to the school being liable as an institution.

Rules vary from state to state, but schools are often held liable for sexual abuse by a teacher or other staff member on two possible theories.  For one, if the abuse occurs during the scope of the teacher or other staff member’s employment, then their employer – the school – is responsible.  However, many schools try to fight this kind of liability by saying that abusing children is far outside the scope of the teacher’s employment, so it cannot be considered the school’s fault.  Second, however, is the argument that the school is liable because of negligent hiring or retention.  This argument says that the school should have done a better job of screening out pedophiles or dangerous adults from their workplace, and by failing to do so, the school is also liable.

In some cases, the school might be just as blindsided about what happened as anyone else in the community, which makes it harder to hold the school responsible for what the teacher did.  However, when the school has a history of previous allegations against the teacher that went ignored or evidence of a coverup to hide previous allegations, they are far more complicit.  Our school sexual abuse victim lawyers can use this kind of evidence against the school in a lawsuit.

Schools also have an obligation under Title IX to investigate allegations of sexual abuse and sex discrimination, and failing to initiate proper investigations and fix problems is itself grounds to file complaints, claims, and lawsuits.

Can You Sue a School for Sexual Abuse by Another Student?

If your child was sexually abused by another student on school grounds, you might be able to sue the school, but there are some barriers to these claims.  In any case, you can once again sue the individual student for the abuse they committed, potentially suing their parents for the child’s actions.

In general, the law is hesitant to put additional responsibilities on schools to keep kids safe, especially when it comes to bullying or school shootings.  However, with sexual assault, even actions committed by other students could constitute sexual harassment or sex discrimination under Title IX.  This makes it the school’s affirmative responsibility to act on reports of sexual harassment, unwanted sexual touching, or outright sexual abuse by one student against another student.  However, your case might have to go through complaints with certain government departments before you are cleared to sue in court.

The strongest lawsuits against schools for sexual abuse by another student will involve cases where past reports of abuse or harassment initially went ignored, leading to continued or escalated abuse.  In addition, a case is stronger if a teacher was complicit or reckless in allowing the abuse to continue, such as by leaving a known aggressor alone with the victim or pairing up the students for classroom activities in an attempt to force them to “get along.”

Schools are often legally responsible for the children under their care, and turning a blind eye or even abetting sexual abuse by a student is unacceptable and can lead to a lawsuit in many cases.

Can You Sue a School if a Volunteer Sexually Abuses or Molests Your Child?

Today, even volunteers or people helping with events at a school usually need to have their “clearances” (i.e., background checks and specific child abuse checks) to ensure they have no history of abuse.  If a school fails to perform these required checks and allows a dangerous adult around your children, then any abuse could be the school’s fault.

Like with staff and faculty, the school is often responsible for who it allows to be around your children.  And, again, since this is sexual abuse at a school, Title IX often helps victims and their families hold schools and institutions responsible.

Call Our School Sexual Abuse Lawyers Today

If your child was abused at school, call our school sexual abuse victim lawyers at The Law Office of Andrew Shubin at (814) 826-3586.


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