Orange County School Sexual Abuse Attorney
All too often, school teachers or staff members sexually abuse the school children they are supposed to protect. What happens when an institution you trust most harms you or your child?
If your child was sexually abused at school, you can take action to seek civil justice and protect other children. At Boucher LLP, our attorneys stand up and advocate for sexual abuse survivors.
We have confronted some of the largest institutions in the country over the harm they caused children. We can work with you—when you and your child feel ready—to share your story and expose schools that hire or harbor sexual abusers.
Contact the Orange County school sexual abuse attorneys at Boucher LLP by calling 818-340-5400.
How Common Is Sexual Abuse in Schools?
Sexual abuse at school is not uncommon. The Washington Post reported that sexual assault in schools sharply increased in recent years, with 15,000 incidents reported in the 2017-2018 school year.
These statistics represented a 50% increase in reports of sexual assault in only two years.
The Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection posted a report on sexual violence in K-12 schools. The report found that the Office of Civil Rights received nearly fifteen times more K-12 sexual harassment complaints—which includes complaints of sexual violence—in 2019 than in 2009.
Responding to this alarming data, the Secretary of Education said, “We hear all too often about innocent children being sexually assaulted by an adult at school. That should never happen. No parent should have to think twice about their child’s safety while on school grounds.”
Seeking Justice and Empowerment for Survivors of School Sexual Abuse
If you or a loved one suffered sexual abuse due to the negligence of a school, you deserve justice. Contact the school sexual abuse lawyers at Boucher LLP for help with your claim today.Contact Us
Types of Sexual Abuse in Schools
Sexual abuse in schools includes any sexual misconduct that takes place on school grounds or is perpetrated by a school employee or a student.
- Sexual Harassment: According to California Education Code § 212.5, sexual harassment may occur by someone from or in the work or educational setting, impacting both employees or students. This California law prohibits sexual harassment where, for example, submission to the unwanted conduct is a condition of employment, academic status, or progress. .
- Sexual Assault and Battery: These are the same charge in California. Sexual contact of any kind without consent for the purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual abuse is considered sexual assault and battery.
- Sexual Intimidation: A threat, whether implied or actual, to commit a sex act against another person is sexual intimidation. This does not have to be physical intimidation.
- Sexual Exploitation: Taking advantage of another person using intimate information, including photos or recordings of sexual nature, may constitute sexual exploitation.
It is important to note that anyone under the age of 18 in California cannot legally consent to sexual interaction. For example, an underage student cannot legally consent to a sexual relationship with a school faculty member.
Who Perpetrates School Sexual Abuse?
Adult abusers may misuse their authority to prey on vulnerable students in schools. School sexual abuse perpetrators may include:
- Adjunct faculty,
- Bus drivers, and
- Support staff.
School sexual abuse can also arise from the actions of other students. Even if the abuse is perpetrated by another student, sometimes termed peer-on-peer abuse, coming forward and reporting the conduct to school officials and the authorities is critical—not only for your child’s safety but for the sake of other students. Students should never have to feel afraid to go to school.
What Should You Do After Discovering Sexual Abuse at School?
You may be in shock after discovering school sexual abuse has occurred, so it can be hard to know what to do.
First, prioritize medical and mental health treatment for your child.
Next, file reports with the school and the police department.
You’ll also want to evaluate whether your child is safe in the school or if you need to find a safer school option. Under California law, your child has a right to an educational environment free of sexual harassment and sexual violence (California SB-169).
After taking these initial steps, you may consider your legal options. You can seek justice under California criminal law, California civil law, and federal civil rights law.
An experienced Orange County school sexual abuse attorney can guide you through these options and determine which is best for your goals.
California Criminal Law
Sexual abuse of a child is a crime under the California Penal Code. Anyone age 18 or older who has sexual contact with anyone under age 18 commits an unlawful sex act.
The greater the age difference between the adult and the child, the harsher the penalties become. Penalties may include fines and imprisonment.
California Civil Law
Regardless of whether the State of California criminally prosecuted the sexual abuser, you may still be able to file a civil lawsuit against the abuser or institution that failed to protect you.. In fact, it’s easier to hold a wrongdoer civilly responsible for misconduct than it is to find them criminally guilty because civil courts require a lower burden of proof.
California civil law allows you to file a lawsuit against the sexual abuser and those who enabled the abuse, which often includes the school staff member, the school, and/or school district.
In a civil lawsuit, you can seek damages for medical bills, counseling fees, and emotional harm. Settlement negotiations may also give you the ability to request any special provision that may help you heal or protect others.
For instance, in addition to monetary compensation, you might request that the school or school district improve its policies or procedures to prevent future abuse. You might also request funding for an awareness campaign or a public apology.
Children who were sexually abused can file a civil lawsuit until the later of these dates:
- Their fortieth birthday, or
- Five years from the date they discover or reasonably should have discovered that their psychological injury or illness occurring after the age of majority was caused by the sexual assault.
This long statute of limitations means that even if you were sexually abused decades ago, you still might be able to file a sexual abuse lawsuit.
Title IX is a federal law that “prohibits sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, and gender identity) discrimination in any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” Federal courts have ruled that sex discrimination includes sexual harassment, such as unwelcome sexual advances or sexual assault.
The federal government strengthened Title IX protections against school sexual misconduct in 2020. The new rule:
- Requires elementary and secondary schools to properly respond to notices of sexual harassment and investigate every formal complaint;
- Requires schools to notify parents or legal guardians of students of the contact information of the designated Title IX Coordinator;
- Allows any person to report sex discrimination verbally or in writing; and
- Requires schools to offer free supportive measures to sexual harassment survivors.
Thus, filing a claim with the Office of Civil Rights is another option for seeking justice after a sexual assault at school. The Office of Civil Rights will investigate your claim and, if they find it valid, take corrective action.
This legal action may include working with the school to develop training, notification, monitoring, and policies on sexual assault. If the school does not voluntarily comply with the Office of Civil Rights requests, the school could lose federal funding, or the Department of Justice will take over the case.
Suing a School District for Sexual Abuse at School
The school district owes your child a duty to keep them safe. This legal duty includes protection from sexual predators. If the school had reasonable knowledge that sexual abuse—or abuse of any kind—was occurring and failed to address the problem, it might be held liable.
California law makes clear that all persons who are mandated reporters are required to report all known or suspected cases of child abuse or neglect. The mandated reporter doesn’t determine whether the allegations have merit; that is the job of law enforcement. All school personnel are considered mandated reporters according to the California Department of Education.
The California civil justice system allows victims to file suit against multiple parties. Suing the school district is often an important strategy to ensure that the district is held accountable for not protecting students..
How to Make a Claim
Your first step in pursuing justice against school sexual abuse is to inform the school of the misconduct. The school is required to perform its own investigation into the allegations. You should also seek professional legal counsel.
Several state and federal laws protect students from sexual abuse and harassment. These include Title IX, the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, and Education Code 220.
The experienced team at Boucher LLP can help you determine the best path forward for your school sexual abuse claim.
How Can Our School Sexual Abuse Attorneys in Orange County Help?
Consulting with an Orange County school sexual abuse lawyer can be a powerful first step in your path to seeking justice.
In addition to explaining your legal options, our legal team at Boucher LLP will help you navigate the process of bringing a successful case every step of the way, from:
- filing the initial lawsuit,
- handling discovery requests and disputes,
- seeking evidence from the defendants,
- handling court appearances, and
- negotiating a settlement or taking your case to trial if a settlement is not possible.
The goal of our trauma-informed representation is to minimize your stress and the work that is required of you. We want to empower you to share your story as part of your family’s healing journey, and we’re here to offer you support and legal counsel along the way.
And if you’re worried about having your name revealed as someone who has been sexually abused, please know that we can file your court papers using a pseudonym (like Jane or John Doe), with permission of the court, so that your identity will not be visible to the public.
If you would like to learn more about legal options for survivors of school sexual abuse, contact the Orange County school sexual abuse lawyers at Boucher LLP for a free consultation. We won’t pressure you to act until you’re ready, but we will provide you with information to help you make the best decision for your family’s journey to justice.