Sexual Abuse & Assault by School Employees
Students who are sexually assaulted or abused by school employees have legal rights to obtain justice against their abusers. In addition, under the tort laws of both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, students who were victims of sex abuse can pursue legal actions against any other person or entity which hid the abuse or negligently allowed it to continue, i.e., schools, school districts, youth organizations, etc. Victims are often entitled to financial compensation.
Any school employee can be guilty of sexually abusing or assaulting a student. Teachers, coaches, principals, etc., may all groom a student for sex abuse. Such abuse occurs in all types of schools whether it’s a public or private school or an elementary, middle or high school.
In addition, this type of abuse is not limited to schools. Sexual abuse and assault occurs within other educational or youth institutions, such as:
- daycare centers,
- youth centers,
- juvenile centers, and
- private/public sports organizations.
Those in a position of authority and trust over minors/students assume a very important responsibility, and sexual abuse and assault is an especially egregious perversion of that responsibility. This is true regardless of the student’s age. Under the laws of both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, a high school teacher or high school sports coach who engages in sexual contact with a student is committing a serious crime. In PA, a school employee who engages in sexual contact with an 18 year old student still commits a crime, precisely because of the position of authority.
In a school sex abuse case, the individual who committed the abuse can be held liable in addition to the school itself. In addition, it is important to note that perpetrators of sex abuse/assault are not always school employees. Other students can and do commit sexual abuse. In these types of situations, the school can be held liable under certain circumstances. For instance, schools may be liable for sexual assault that occurs during hazing incidents or other school sanctioned events.
Justice for Victims of School & Teacher Sexual Abuse or Assault
If you or a loved one was the victim of sexual abuse or assault by a school employee like a teacher or coach, the first step is to talk about the abuse with a trusted friend or family member. Oftentimes, simply verbalizing the abuse and talking about it can help victims begin the journey to healing and recovery.
Many victims are entitled to seek justice by filing criminal and/or civil lawsuits against the perpetrators and others who allowed the abuse to occur. This is why it is important to seek counsel from a school sex abuse lawyer. Most lawyers offer a free consultation.
Related: Schools & Day Care Centers – Preventing Children from Sexually Abusing Other Children [We are living in an era when media is over-sexualized. Boys and girls, alike, are encountering sexuality without fully grasping what they have seen. Parents may not know…]
The Critical Difference Between Criminal & Civil School Sex Abuse Cases
In PA and NJ, the criminal and civil justice system operate independently of one another. Criminal and civil cases are completely separate from each other. In a criminal case for school sex abuse, the victim will file a police report. Local law enforcement officers will investigate the case and work with the local prosecutor’s office. The prosecutor’s office will review the evidence and determine if there is enough evidence to go forward.
Because the burden of proof is different in the criminal and civil justice systems, a case that is declined for criminal prosecution can still succeed in the civil system. In criminal school abuse cases, defendants will only be convicted if the evidence meets the beyond a reasonable doubt standard (i.e., the evidence leaves the jury firmly convinced of the defendant’s guilt). On the other hand, in a civil case for school sex abuse, the standard of proof is much more relaxed. A victim only needs to prove the elements of the case by a preponderance of the evidence (i.e., the evidence makes it more likely than not that something is true).
Civil Justice in School/Teacher Sex Abuse Cases
Proceeding with a civil case in a school abuse situation generally requires hiring a crime victims lawyer. The lawyer will meet with the victim, conduct an investigation and determine if the case is still within the relevant statute of limitations period (which varies from state to state). The next step involves filing a civil lawsuit. Learn more about what’s involved in a civil sex abuse lawsuit.
Financial Compensation for Victims of School/Teacher Sex Abuse
Victims of school sex abuse may make claims for financial compensation. Claims often include damages for medical treatment, psychological counseling, and pain and suffering. Compensation for pain and suffering often depends on the extent of the abuse and how it ultimately affected the individual, their relationships, their ability to enjoy life, etc.