Preschool Sexual Assault Lawyer
Do not make the mistake of thinking that sexual assault and abuse are so rare that your child is not at risk.
USA Today conducted an in-depth investigation of educator misconduct and licensure databases across the country. The news publication also reviewed thousands of pages of court documents and employment records. What they discovered may give you nightmares.
Many schools were found to have failed to conduct even the most basic background checks on teachers applying for open positions. For example, a school in Louisiana hired a teacher who was a registered sex offender in another state.
If that is not bad enough, the investigation discovered that many state education agencies were in violation of a federal prohibition on entering into "secrecy deals" with teachers suspected of committing child sexual abuse and molestation. These agreements allowed the school to brush the allegations under the rug in exchange for the teacher resigning quietly (as opposed to dragging out the process in court). This practice is shocking and unacceptable. These secrecy deals make it much easier for abusive teachers to find new employment in a different school district or in another work setting where they can be around young kids.
The USA Today investigation also revealed that penalties are rarely levied against school administrators who fail to report a resignation of a problematic school teacher. Keep in mind that forty-one states have laws on the books that expressly require public school administrators to report the firing or resignation of a teacher to state education officials. Failing to do so means that a teacher who resigned due to suspicions of committing sexual abuse or molestation could conceivably apply for a new teaching job and even if the new school conducts a background check, they may not find information about the abuse allegations.Abusive Teachers Easily Find New Jobs
Having a record of committing preschool sexual assault or abuse should damage your reputation and prevent you from being hired by another school. Well, it turns out that this is not the case for many teachers. The USA Today investigation found that many teachers who were fired or resigned after being accused of abusive behavior had no difficulty finding new employment at a different school. For example, a teacher in New Jersey was found to have molested five elementary school students. It turns out he had a record of prior sexual abuse at a different school district, yet he was still hired by the New Jersey school.Preschool Sexual Abuse Risk Only Growing
The number of investigations conducted on allegations of sexual abuse and molestation in California schools has more than doubled since 2008-2009, according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. Other states have seen similar jumps in sexual abuse investigations. For example, Texas has seen a 27 percent increase in the number of investigations into alleged inappropriate teacher-student relationships.Take Legal Action Against the School That Hired the Abuser
If your child was sexually abused by a preschool teacher, you have rights and may be able to file a lawsuit seeking damages against the school that hired the abuser. Under California law, an employer may be found to be liable for the harmful acts of an employee if there is evidence that the employer failed to investigate earlier complaints or check the perpetrator's references. This type of claim is called "negligent hiring."Lawsuit Against a School for Hiring a Sexually Abusive Teacher
If a preschool hired a teacher who abused you or your child, the school may have failed to do its due diligence in checking the background and references of the abusive teacher. If such negligence occurred, your sexual abuse lawyer should file a lawsuit against the preschool for negligent hiring. This is an action brought by individuals who claim that they have been hurt by an employee and the employee’s tendency for causing harm was known to or should have been known to, the employer (i.e. the preschool).Negligent Hiring Claim in California – What Needs to Be Proven
When you file a civil case against a defendant, the burden is on you, the plaintiff, to prove your case. This means there needs to be sufficient evidence to show that the preschool breached its duty when hiring the abusive teacher and that breach proximately caused your harm.
In California, employers have a duty to investigate the background of employees to determine their fitness for a particular position. In the preschool context, the school is required to investigate the background of a prospective teacher in order to assess the applicant's ability to teach and conduct other related job duties. A school is also required to continue to remain informed of the employee's’ fitness for the position. This means that if a preschool is informed of alleged abuse and does nothing, the preschool can be held liable for the harm caused by that inaction. The legal elements necessary to prove a negligent hiring claim include:
- The employer (i.e. the preschool) had a duty to hire and monitor employees;
- The preschool knew or should have known that the teacher posed a safety risk to others; and
- The preschool breached the duty.
- The preschool's breach of duty caused harm to you or a loved one.
When a civil lawsuit is filed against a defendant, the damages that may be pursued generally include economic damages, non-economic damages, and possibly punitive damages. Economic damages are those calculable harms such as medical bills and lost income. Non-economic damages are often called "pain and suffering" damages. This is the type of harm many survivors of sexual abuse endure on a daily basis.
Many sexual abuse survivors report diminished interest in social involvement, they are more likely to turn to drugs or alcohol, they are at a higher risk of developing depression, and many sexual abuse survivors contemplate suicide at a higher rate than non-victims. The damage that can be inflicted on a young child if they are abused at preschool can be life-altering.
If you decide to hire a sexual abuse lawyer, one of their primary tasks will be effectively communicating the damage done to you or your child to the defense counsel for the school and/or a jury. Depending on the facts of your case, punitive damages may be pursued. These are basically "punishment" damages meant to send a signal to the community that the actions of the defendant were reprehensible and will not be tolerated.Examples of Successful School Sexual Assault Lawsuits
Unfortunately, there are numerous examples of lawsuits filed on behalf of abused children that have resulted in favorable jury verdicts and settlements against schools for negligent hiring of abusive teachers. For example, a jury awarded a sexual abuse survivor $8 million against the Pomona Unified School District for the abuse inflicted by a teacher, according to Campus Safety Magazine.
Another example is a verdict in a case involving two boys who were sexually abused by their Los Angeles Unified School District elementary teacher. The Los Angeles jury reviewed the shocking evidence and awarded $3 million to each of the boys in compensation, according to the Los Angeles Times. The abusive teacher is currently serving a 25-year prison term after being convicted of committing lewd acts with thirteen children (the two boys were not his only victims). The school district accepted liability for negligent hiring and supervision and retention of the teacher.Sacramento Sexual Abuse Lawyer
I'm Ed Smith, a Sacramento sexual abuse lawyer who has been practicing personal injury law since 1982. These types of cases are complex and sensitive, often involving a survivor to recount their abuse by a teacher. Call me today at 916.921.6400 for free, friendly advice.
Editor’s Note: This page has been updated for accuracy and relevancy [cha 10.22.20]
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