Above its obligation to provide enrichment and sound instruction, an educational institution must provide a safe atmosphere for children. According to the allegations in a September 2022 Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA) sexual assault case filed by a former student of the school, the Santa Ana Unified School District (SAUSD) failed to fulfill its fundamental obligation to protect OCSA’s minor students from sexual assault at the hands of OCSA founder Ralph S. Opacic.
A school’s failure to shield the children in its care from sexual misconduct perpetrated by its employees is unacceptable and legally actionable. And regardless of when the offense occurred, an adult survivor of childhood sexual assault can initiate a California civil action if they commence their case by December 31, 2022, by the time they turn 40, or within five years of discovering an assault-related illness, whichever is later.
Every day, our experienced sexual assault attorneys at Boucher LLP take up the mantle to enforce the rights of sexual assault survivors. If you are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, we want you to know that you have support, you have legal options, and you have a champion at Boucher LLP.
Background of the Orange County School of the Arts Sexual Assault Case
The OCSA charter school opened in 2000 with founder Ralph Opacic at the helm. On the surface, the school was a haven where creative young minds could flourish, and over the years, OCSA established a national reputation as a premier art school. But under the surface, there were allegations that Ralph Opacic used his position of power to groom and sexually assault underage students while OCSA and SAUSD ignored clear signs and warnings of Opacic’s egregious misconduct.
In the lawsuit filed on September 22, 2022 , the former student states that he enrolled at OCSA as an 8th grader who had a passion for the performing arts. He alleges that as he became better acquainted with the school, he noticed a “cult-like” mentality among faculty and administration that placed Opacic and his vision on a pedestal.
The former student alleges that he also noticed rumors about Opacic having unlawful sexual interactions with minor students ran rampant on campus, and the rumored behavior was normalized.
The complaint asserts that during the 2003-2004 school year, when the former student was underage, Opacic began sending him emails that took on a romantic tone and then became sexually explicit. He alleges he was indoctrinated into believing Opacic’s behavior was appropriate.
He further asserts Opacic then used his position of power to request that the student be removed from history class and escorted to Opacic’s office during the school day. The former student says that in the office at school, Opacic sexually assaulted him.
The lawsuit alleges that after the assault, Opacic invited the then student to a restaurant where he asked him not to reveal the assault to anyone. Tragically, devastating incidents such as this often happen in school settings.
Schools Are Responsible for the Predatory Actions of Their Staff and Leaders
Predatory behavior toward children must be exposed and stopped. And educational institutions that harbor or fail to address predators must be held accountable for placing children in unsafe environments. As they should, California statutes and case law give survivors of childhood sexual assault avenues to receive legal redress from the schools that failed to protect them.
The OCSA sexual assault lawsuit notes that under California Government Code 815.2, SAUSD is liable for Opacic’s unlawful actions. And as the California Court of Appeal stated in Doe v. Lawndale Elementary School District, school “[a]dministrators who fail to notice, identify, and respond to warning signs that suggest an employee is sexually abusing or will sexually abuse a student bear . . . responsibility for the abuse.”
If you survived childhood sexual assault by a school employee or agent while attending OCSA or any other educational institution in California, you have a right to legal protection. And our sexual assault attorneys at Boucher LLP are here to empower you and address your needs.
California Law Extends the Deadline for Filing Sexual Assault Lawsuits
Healing from the effects of childhood sexual assault is a long process. And survivors of sexual assault cannot be expected to process and address their trauma immediately. That is why it is essential that state laws give survivors time to tell their stories.
Not only does Section 340.1 of California’s Code of Civil Procedure allow survivors to initiate sexual assault lawsuits within 22 years of reaching the age of majority, but it also allows any survivor who would normally be barred by the 22-year time limit to commence legal action if they do so by December 31, 2022.
Boucher LLP Is Here for You
If you need help with taking legal action against childhood sexual assault, speak to Boucher LLP. We are here to be your voice against harmful institutions, and our attorneys relentlessly seek justice for survivors of sexual assault. Our attorneys are experienced, award-winning, and sought-after leaders in the legal community. We meet each client with the compassion and support he or she deserves. If you need a strong advocate in your corner, call us at 818-340-5400 or reach out to us online.