Civil Liability in School Sex Abuse Cases – What Claims are Usually Made

Laffey Bucci D’Andrea Reich & Ryan

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There has been extensive media attention in the Sandusky sexual abuse scandal, the Philadelphia priest abuse criminal trials and the Los Angeles school district abuse scandal.  Since these major news stories broke, there have been various other reports throughout the country of sexual abuse by teachers in schools.

These cases of school sex abuse are not isolated. Sexual abuse occurs in many school or care settings, such as:

  • private schools,
  • public schools,
  • elementary schools,
  • middle schools,
  • high schools,
  • nursing homes,
  • day care centers,
  • summer programs, and
  • summer camps.

This kind of abuse is particularly problematic because others within the school, such as other teachers or school administrators usually have their suspicions, yet do nothing. This allows the abuser to continue the abuse and/or perpetrate abuse of others. Most sexual abusers have a history and pattern of abuse and will often abuse multiple children at the same time.

Victims and their families are often misinformed about their right to fight for civil justice in school sex abuse cases. The school, school district and other parties may be held responsible for the abuse. There are three main types of claims in school sex abuse cases:

  1. negligently failing to report or prevent sex abuse,
  2. negligently failing to institute a sex abuse reporting policy, and
  3. negligently hiring or retaining a known/suspected child sex abuser.

Negligently Failing to Report or Prevent Sex Abuse

In many school sex abuse situations, the teacher begins an inappropriate relationship with the student by keeping the student after school or between classes, or by giving the student extra attention. Others often take notice, such as fellow students and other teachers. When others teachers or administrators within the school or school district have reason to suspect or know of the abuse, the school or school district may be held liable. Under Pennsylvania law, teachers have a duty to report suspected child abuse. In New Jersey, the mandatory abuse reporting requirement is much broader and applies to everyone.

Negligently Failing to Institute a Sex Abuse Reporting Policy

Many schools and school districts do not have any formal policies on reporting sex abuse. Without such policies, teachers within the schools are never trained on what to do when they suspect child sex abuse. In many situations of school sex abuse, another teacher knows of or suspects the abuse. However, without a formal policy, that teacher has no idea what to do. Usually, out of fear, that teacher does nothing. This allows the abuse to continue and may subject the school to liability.

Negligently Hiring or Retaining a Known Child Sex Abuser

It is not surprising that many schools or school districts sweep a suspected case of child abuse or sex abuse under the rug and allow the abusing teacher to continue teaching others. This is precisely the allegation in the Penn State sex abuse scandal. When a school has any reason to suspect that a teacher or employee, like a coach or janitor, has sexually abused a child or student, and still allows that teacher or employee to continue in their employment, the school or school district may face liability for the abuse.

Access our free legal article about the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania child sexual abuse civil lawsuits.

To submit your case for review by our Pennsylvania and New Jersey school sex abuse civil rights lawyers, call Click To Call.  Our lawyers are available for a free, no obligation legal consultation, and can obtain special admission in other states, such as New York or Delaware, on a case by case basis.

**This website does not provide legal advice.  Every case is unique and it is crucial to get a qualified, expert legal opinion prior to making any decisions about your case.  See the full disclaimer at the bottom of this page.

Our school sex abuse civil attorneys serve sex abuse victims in the following areas: Allegheny County, PA; Berks County, PA; Bucks County, PA; Chester County, PA; Delaware County, PA; Lehigh County, PA; Montgomery County, PA; Northampton County, PA: Philadelphia County, PA; Atlantic County, NJ; Burlington County, NJ; Camden County, NJ; Cumberland County, NJ; Gloucester County, NJ; Salem County, NJ; New Castle County, DE; he County, DE; Atlantic City, NJ; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Newark, NJ; Doylestown, PA; Media, PA; West Chester, PA; Norristown, PA; Camden, NJ; Wilmington, DE; Newark, DE; Georgetown, DE; and New Castle, DE. Our lawyers can obtain special admission in other states on a case by case basis.