When a child gets sexually abused or assaulted at school, their parents naturally want to find some sense of justice. Becoming a victim can leave an imprint that follows you for the rest of your life. While it may be impossible to erase a child’s traumatic experience of sexual abuse, taking legal action can help demand that schools do more to protect their students from this type of trauma. The civil court system makes sure that those who commit and enable abuse are held accountable and helps prevent other children from suffering similar abuse in the future. But other than offenders, who can be held liable for child sexual abuse in a lawsuit?
How Common Is Sexual Harassment & Abuse In Schools?
Sexual abuse and harassment in schools is more common than many people may realize. According to a 2000 study by the American Association of University Women, about 10 percent of students are sexually abused in one way or another during their school years. This report surveyed students between the 8th and 11th grades and asked if they’d ever experienced sexual misconduct at school, including:
- Lewd comments
- Exposure to pornography
- Locker room peeping
- Sexual touching, grabbing, or groping
Of the 10% of students who said that they had experienced one or more of these forms of sexual abuse, 2/3 of them reported that the incident was physical in nature. If we extrapolate these numbers to the nation’s population, that means about 4.5 million current students in grades K-12 have suffered sexual abuse by an educator, and over 3 million have experienced sexual touching or assault.
Prevalence of Student-On-Student Sexual Assault
Educators aren’t the only perpetrators of sexual abuse in our schools. Student-on-student sexual abuse is also a widespread problem. According to a report by the Associated Press, there were about 17,000 cases of student-on-student sexual abuse during a four-year period. The same report found that fellow students are seven times more likely than adults to commit sexual assault in school.
Since most experts believe that these incidents are vastly underreported, the true frequency of student-on-student sexual abuse is likely much higher than these statistics indicate. There are no federal laws requiring schools to collect information on these incidents either.
Family Of Brooklyn School Rape Victim Files Federal Lawsuit
Unfortunately, some schools grossly mishandle incidents of sexual assault committed by their students. In a recent example, Education Department officials suspended a mentally disabled Brooklyn student after she was sexually assaulted by a group of male schoolmates, instead of punishing the alleged perpetrators. One of those alleged perpetrators was arrested and charged with sexual misconduct and sexual assault.
In June, that girl’s family filed a federal civil rights lawsuit, seeking unspecified damages from New York City. According to the complaint, the girl still suffers from extreme anxiety, sleeplessness, hair loss, skin rashes, anger issues, and PTSD, among other injuries.
When Can A School Be Sued For Student Sexual Abuse?
When a school mishandles the aftermath of a sexual assault or fails to do all that they can to prevent these assaults, they may be held liable for their negligence through lawsuits. The Brooklyn school rape case is one example of a school failing to appropriately respond after one of their students experienced the trauma of sexual abuse by fellow students.
School’s can also be held liable if their failure to prevent sexual abuse amounts to negligence. For example, if the school hired a staff member with a history of sexual offenses without conducting a background check, they could also be held liable.
Taking legal action obviously can’t erase the past, but it can get families the support they need and demand accountability from those whose negligence contributed to the sexual abuse or assault. If your family has found yourself in this tragic situation, our Queens personal injury lawyers can help you get the answers and support you need. Learn more about your legal options today by contacting us for a free consultation.