Sexual abuse is a hard topic to discuss. It carries a lot of painful emotions, and victims often find ways to hide and avoid having to talk about their abuse. When a victim is forced to confront their abuser on a daily basis, it becomes an even more tragic event. School teachers who abuse their students, create this form of a nightmare for their students.
Why Students Do Not Want to Report Teacher Sexual Abuse
The biggest problem with reporting incidents of teacher sexual abuse is the student is afraid of not being believed. The teacher who inflicts this form of abuse is usually popular and well-liked by parents, the administration, and other students. When facing having to make an accusation of such a horrible event about someone so well-liked is a scary thought.
Teachers who commit sexual abuse are often charming and extremely funny. They make themselves stand out in the community by becoming leaders in nutrition, health, sports, and after-school programs. They don't support drinking or drugs and gain the respect of parents and their colleagues as outstanding community members. Making a sexual abuse report on someone with this status can be incredibly difficult.
The teacher preys on this belief and increases a victim's doubts about reporting the abuse. They may even use repercussions for reporting them, such as being removed from the football team, or taken off the cheerleading squad. Add the removal from a loved activity to the fact they may face ridicule from their peers, and the student continues to allow the abuse and keep their silence.
Parents have to realize that the best way to protect their child from sexual abuse is to understand that abusers can be community leaders whom they would never suspect of such a horrible crime. Abusers can appear as 'good,' and attractive people, and sometimes even family-men with their own wife and kids waiting for them at home. The sexual abuser learns how to disguise themselves so they can unleash years of soul-destroying abuse on students who move through their halls.
Teacher sexual abuse is allowed to continue as long as the student believes the act is being done because the teacher 'cares' about them. The teacher makes the student feel they want to keep them safe, and they are acting out of 'love,' and because student-aged children are naive, they believe the lies.
If you know or suspect your child is the victim of teacher sexual abuse, contact Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm. Let us help you learn how you can protect your child and their rights. We will work with your family and especially your child to get through this difficult time.
Is Teacher Sexual Abuse Common?
Studies suggest that approximately ten percent of our students suffer some form of teacher sexual abuse during their school years. When students between eighth and eleventh grade were asked if they had ever experienced inappropriate teacher sexual conduct, about one in ten reported they had been victims of some form of impropriety. The list of misconduct included lewd comments, peeping in the locker room, exposure to pornography, and sexual grabbing or touching. If these numbers represent the student body across the country, then more than 4.5 million students between kindergarten and twelfth-grade experience some form of teacher sexual abuse sometime during their school years. These numbers represent sexual touching or assault, as well as inappropriate romantic relationships, and outright pedophilia.
There has been no specific nationwide study conducted for the expressed purpose of measuring how severe teacher sexual abuse is by educators. The Department of Health and Human Services, Education, and Justice do agree there is a problem in this area; however, Congress has shown little interest in spending money to research the numbers.
Teacher Sexual Abuse and the Male Student
There is growing evidence to support that boys who are sexually abused or preyed upon by older female authority figures, such as their teachers, suffer psychologically the same as girls suffer when victims of older males. Schools, law officers, and the courts treat these victims differently and with a double standard.
Experts state male victims should get the same protective care as girls, but there are those who believe male teens are driven by raging hormones and want to explore new sexuality. But one thing all of them agree on is there is a discrepancy in the treatment of victims of nonviolent sexual abuse by high school teachers. It is also agreed that male victims typically receive lower awards in civil cases, and their female perpetrators receive lighter sentencing.
At Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm, we will work with your son if a teacher has sexually abused him. We have the experience in the courtroom and in the legal system to ensure your son and your family receive the help you need and fair compensation against this crime.
Teacher Sexual Abuse is on the Rise
The news is beginning to report more stories involving the arrest of teachers who have been charged with sexual abuse or misconduct with their students. Some of the recent victims have been as young as eleven-years-old.
Parents send their children to school with the assumption it is a safe environment. These arrests are making parents realize their kids may not be as safe as they thought. Statistics show there were almost 500 educators arrested in one year’s time on charges of sexual abuse in the school.
In a lot of cases, other teachers at the school ‘thought something was happening’ but were afraid to report their suspicions. Their reasons for not reporting the abuse were that they did not want to be responsible for ruining another’s life, even though the child’s life was at risk.
The reason we are now seeing a rise in teacher sexual abuse cases can be attributed to more transparency as schools are beginning to report what was once kept quiet. Another factor causing the increase could be related to cell phones and social media sites.
A study done on cell phones and students shows more than eighty percent of students between the ages of twelve and seventeen have a cell phone. The study also showed ninety-four percent of this age group has a Facebook account. Another study conducted five years ago on teacher sexual assault revealed educators who had been accused or convicted of sexual abuse had used social media to gain access to their victims. The social media sites were used to continue with their teacher-student relationship.
With today's technology, it is much easier for predators to discreetly prey on their victims. Students who have cell phones with them all of the time allow the predators unmonitored and free access to them. Even if a child doesn't have a cell phone, the predators will find ways to reach out to them through tablets, laptops, or personal computers. These are numbers that should make parents nervous about their child's safety:
- The Department of Justice reports about fifteen percent of students between the ages of twelve and seventeen who own a cell phone have received semi-nude, nude, or sexually suggestive materials and images of someone they know through texting
- Approximately eleven percent of teenagers state they have shared nude photos of themselves through texting or online. Of those who have shared these images, twenty-six are trusting enough to believe the person getting the pictures would not share them with others
- There are about twenty-six percent of teenagers who admit to participating in sexting
If you are worried your child might be a victim of sexual abuse by their teacher or any other predator, there are warning signs to watch for.
Signs Your Child Be a Victim of Teacher Sexual Abuse
Seeing one sign of what you suspect might be sexual abuse with your child doesn't always mean they are in danger. When you see several signs, though, you should be asking your child these questions:
- Refuses to eat, trouble swallowing, loss of appetite
- Showing unusual or new fear of certain places or people
- Dreams, talks, writes or draws about frightening sexual acts or images
- Stops accepting touches or hugs
- Displays sleep problems or experiences unexplained nightmares
- Becomes withdrawn, insecure, or has sudden mood swings
- Displays knowledge of the adult language and sexual behaviors
- Refers to their body as being dirty or bad
Teenagers may also show these signs:
- Stops keeping daily hygiene practice or begins compulsively eating or dieting
- Becomes depressed or displays excessive anxiety
- Attempts suicide
- Runs away from home
- Begins using alcohol or drugs, or may display promiscuous sexual behavior
If you suspect your child is a victim of teacher sexual abuse, be careful how you react. It is critical to your child's welfare that you:
- Do not overreact and attempt to blame your child for any action
- Do not downplay the abuse when they talk about it with you or try to minimize your feelings or theirs
- Assure the child it is not their fault
- Seek proper medical care if needed
- Do not demand they give all the details
- Listen calmly and remember, children seldom lie about sexual abuse
- Notify local law enforcement and Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm to learn how you should proceed with legal action
When is it Considered Teacher Sexual Abuse?
Teacher sexual abuse occurs when a teacher violates a student's rights or endangers their well-being and safety. This abuse is taken very seriously by both federal and state laws. There are laws in place which strictly regulate the standards by which all teachers are expected to conduct themselves. When a teacher violates these standards, they become exposed to both criminal and civil penalties.
Parents and students need to know which situations might be considered abusive as some children, especially young children, may not be aware of what is considered mistreatment. Teacher sexual abuse can occur in different forms and can involve situations that may not always be physical abuse. These are some examples of what is considered teacher abuse:
- Unauthorized or excessive use of physical force
- Restricting the constitutional rights of the student, such as those involving freedom of expression or speech
- Unfair academic treatment such as preferential treatment in grading or other bias
- Denial of educational opportunities
- Sexual, emotional, or physical harassment of the student
- Discriminates against students based on race, gender, or disability
- Failing to address any special needs of a student
One main reason teacher sexual abuse can happen or can continue is the fact that most young students do not recognize that they are being abused. Make sure any complaint from a child regarding their personal, emotional, or physical treatment from a teacher is taken seriously.
If you suspect a teacher is abusing your child or anyone's child, you need to contact authorities immediately. You should also contact the office of Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm, who will help you through this difficult time. We can help you know and understand your rights and legal options. Other steps you may need to take include:
- Contact members of the school board and other school officials immediately. You will want to schedule a meeting as soon as possible while the events of the abuse are still fresh in the student's mind. Delaying to report sexual abuse could have adverse effects with the authorities.
- Learn what your student’s school regulations and policies are regarding teacher conduct. Ask the district if there have been any previous incidents of teacher sexual abuse in their school.
- Ask the school board to conduct an investigation into the incident and that they provide you with a formal, written explanation of what is discovered.
- If your requests are not handled adequately by the school board, you may be forced into filing an investigation with a government agency, such as the California Board of Education. The Department of Education will investigate your complaint about teacher sexual abuse and take corrective measures.
- If, for any reason, you feel the Board of Education is not adequately addressing your complaint of teacher sexual abuse, you have the right to file a lawsuit. Contact Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm to learn how this process is handled and what the various laws are that govern teachers in public educational institutions.
Who is Legally Responsible in Teacher Sexual Abuse Cases?
Parents entrust school counselors, coaches, and teachers to take proper care of their children. When this trust is betrayed through harassment, bullying, or sexual abuse, can parents sue the school?
The first step for you if a school employee has mistreated your child is to make sure the abuse stops. Once you know your child and other children are safe from further harm, you may be able to sue on behalf of your child.
You may never recover enough money from a teacher to compensate for what your child has suffered as teaching does not pay a lot of salary. But you will be able to ensure they receive full punishment under the law and are not able to continue hurting future students. Depending on the circumstances of your child’s case, you may be able to sue the school district and the school board. This action may provide you and your child more significant damage collection and send a message to the school itself.
Teacher Sexual Abuse and Title IX
If a school employee or a teacher sexually abuse your child, you may be able to sue the school district. If they have violated Title IX, a federal law, you have the legal right to file a lawsuit. Title IX states any educational program which is given federal funds, including private and public schools, cannot discriminate based on sex. Sex-based discrimination includes sexual harassment and abuse.
The law protects students against behavior and comments of a sexual nature, sexual assault or coercion, and unwanted sexual advances. The United States Department of Education makes it clear that under Title IX, it is illegal to harass students based on their gender, and this includes all unwelcome conduct based on a student's gender expression, gender identity, or a student's perceived or actual sex.
The United States Supreme Court has set a high bar for successfully filing Title IX lawsuits. To win damages for teacher sexual abuse or harassment, your student will have to prove that a school official:
- Was aware of the school employee’s sexual behavior or conduct
- Had the ability to take corrective action
- Took action regarding the conduct, but it was in such a manner that it amounted to 'deliberate indifference'
All educational personnel are required under the law to report any reasonable belief they have concerning neglect or abuse of a child. Abuse includes physical abuse, risk of physical harm, emotional injury, torture, sexual abuse, or excessive corporal punishment. Personnel is also required by law to report any suspicions of neglect. Neglect constitutes the student being denied basic necessities such as shelter, food, and clothing.
If the school personnel willfully fail to report suspected abuse or neglect, they can be charged with a misdemeanor and end up suspended or having their teaching certificate revoked. When they do report suspicions, they are considered to be acting in good faith and are immune from any criminal or civil liability.
Alternative Lawsuits Against Teachers
If a teacher bullies a student due to their race, national origin, disability, or sex, it can be considered a form of illegal discrimination in a public school. Under these conditions, a parent may be able to sue the school under the Civil Rights Act of 1871. It is possible to sue if the student’s constitutional right to equal protection has been violated. There are also strict requirements for these lawsuits:
- The conduct on the part of the school employee had to be widespread and done in a persistent pattern
- It must be shown the school officials were informed about the behavior, but were either indifferent to the events or tacitly authorized the events
- It must be shown the school’s failure to respond to the events caused injury to your student/child
If it is proven a teacher's harassment was due to a student's disability, as a parent, you may be able to sue the school for violating Title II of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. These Acts protect students and make it illegal for public schools to discriminate against students due to their disabilities.
State laws can be more strict than federal regulations in protecting your student's rights. Depending on where you live, you may be able to sue a school for violating your child. Check with Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm to learn what California laws are regarding the protection you and your child need and what your legal options are under state laws.
Suing a School for Negligent Hiring of a Teacher
If your child has been harmed as a result of harassment or sexual abuse, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit on behalf of them. The suit would be based on the claim that school officials were negligent in their duty to protect your child from harm. Some courts have held schools accountable under state law for keeping or hiring an employee what is later found to have sexually abused a student. If the school officials knew about this behavior or knew the teacher was prone to misconduct, and they kept them in the school, the school is then responsible. The school can also be held accountable if it is proven the teacher's abuse was the result of negligent supervision.
In general, private and public schools are immune to lawsuits. The immunity means you will have to go through certain legal hurdles in the claims process. Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm understands these complications and will help you through these steps and obstacles. Working with a law firm that has experience in education law, civil rights, and personal injury can help find the compensation and justice you and your child deserves.
If your child or another student in your child's school has been the victim of teacher sexual abuse, call Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm at 310-359-9451. We have extensive experience handling cases for victims of sexual abuse and understand the emotional and challenging time you and your child are going through. Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm is here for you and your child to answer any questions you have regarding legal options. We are ready to help you get your child through this traumatic event.