There have been multiple reports of sexual abuse by teachers and other school employees like coaches, principals, etc., and many reports have occurred in Pennsylvania.
Teachers who have sexual contact with their students are committing one of the worst kinds of sexual abuses, i.e., by a person in a position of power or authority. This applies regardless of whether the student is in high school or elementary school.
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In the aftermath of first reporting sexual abuse by a teacher, the student-victim often feels ashamed and embarrassed. In addition, there aren’t very many resources which explain what their rights are. Below is a discussion of the legal rights (criminal and civil) of a student who was sexually abused or assaulted by a teacher in Pennsylvania.
Criminal Legal Rights
Educators in elementary, middle and high schools in Pennsylvania commit a crime when they engage in sexual conduct with students. This is known as the crime of institutional abuse, and applies to teachers, teachers’ assistants, coaches, principals, etc. It also applies to individuals who volunteer with a school.
Under Pennsylvania criminal law, a teacher who engages in sexual conduct with students may be required to go to jail, be placed under house arrest and/or be placed under probation. In addition, the teacher may be required to undergo counseling and/or pay restitution.
The criminal justice system process is very complex and is often very scary for a student and their parents. Please click here to learn more about the criminal justice system in a sex abuse case.
Civil Legal Rights
Pennsylvania law recognizes the right of a victim of sex abuse to seek justice in the civil courts. In teacher-student sex abuse cases, victims are entitled to seek financial compensation from the perpetrators. In addition, any other party or entity which negligently contributed to the incidents may also be liable. For instance, a school may be liable for failing to investigate sexual abuse reports of a specific teacher. Read more about the civil justice system here.
It is important to note that the criminal justice system and the civil justice system are very different in how the victim is treated, how the case proceeds and what the ultimate outcome will be. In addition, victims can file one or both types of cases. There is no requirement that sex abuse victims file a criminal case in order to be allowed to file a civil one.
Victims of sexual abuse deserve justice and should not feel guilty or embarrassed about asserting their legal rights. Sexual abuse is sexual abuse no matter who the perpetrator is or how old the victim is.
For a free case review, please call our office and ask to speak to Brian Kent, a former sex crimes unit prosecutor. 800.220.7600
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