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Sexual Abuse by Teachers in School

Sometimes sexual abuse happens in places where it seems it would be most unlikely, such as at school. Sexual abuse by teachers is another example of an abuse of power by an adult over a minor. Teachers are typically bound by laws to not engage in sexual involvements with their students, even when the student is over the age of consent.

It is simply common sense that a minor child, or even a student at the age of 18, is in school for the specific purpose to learn and obtain a degree. The teacher’s role is to support the student towards that goal, not forge interactions intended to satisfy their own desires. There have been many instances of sexual abuse by teachers against children, unfortunately, in school districts ranging from Seattle, Kirkland, Olympia, up to Bellingham.


Rape is perhaps the most well-known sexual assault crime and may be the most violent. Rape involves the outright coercion of a victim against their will to engage in sexual intercourse with an abuser. The act of rape is brutal and cruel because it involves physical force, violence and/or the threat of bodily injury.

Statutory Rape

Unlike rape, statutory rape may not involve direct violence and physical force. Statutory rape is considered to be rape because it involves an adult engaging in sexual intercourse with a minor—which, in this case, is a person who is under the age of consent for sex. However, the attribution of minor status varies from state to state as it is determined by the age of consent laws outlined by each state. For example, in Washington State the age of consent is 16, but in California the age of consent is 18.

Statutory rape laws are complicated because they also take into consideration the age of the adult, such that, in some states the age at which a person can legally to consent to have sex with a person of any age (specifically older adults) is 18. To understand the specific laws that apply to your case it is best to contact a lawyer who can advise you.

Child Sexual Abuse

There are many kinds of child sexual abuse crimes, as specified by the particular behavior of the adult and the age of the minor victim. However, nearly all of these crimes involve sexual or sexualized behaviors, often considered to be lewd or lascivious, that an adult acts upon with a minor. The intent of these crimes is described as one which is geared to arouse or gratify the sexual desires of the adult.

Not all child sexual abuse crimes involve direct contact with a minor victim. Child pornography is a good example. Tragically, many minors have been convicted of child pornography after texting sexual images of themselves to others, including other minors—in an act popularly known as “sexting.” Under child pornography laws in some states, minor defendants may be sentenced to a minimum of five years’ incarceration in a federal prison.

Aggregated Sexual Abuse

Aggregated sexual abuse typically represents a more serious and perhaps harmful form of sexual abuse. It may involve the abuser threatening the life of the victim, drugging the victim (such as was the case with Bill Cosby), abusing an older adult or handicapped person, or incest. This may happen if a teacher threatens a student to have sex with them and then forcibly commits a sex act on the minor child.

Legal Theories to Hold a School Accountable for Sexual Abuse

If your child has been sexually abused while at school, there are a couple of legal theories that can be pursued. To be clear, there are two separate cases to be considered. The first is a criminal case and the second is a civil case.

For a criminal case, you will need to call the police and make a report. In a criminal case, the teacher or administrator will be criminally prosecuted, meaning the teacher or administrator will be prosecuted by the district attorney or prosecutor and face jail time, potentially, or some kind of criminal fine. In a civil case, which is what this concerns, the penalty or punishment will be a money settlement paid by the school district.

This is called a civil case. The two types of cases, civil and criminal, can go on at the same time, but they are completely separate and one will not affect the other one. In a civil case, if a teacher commits some kind of sex act or sexual abuse against a child, then the school is what is called “respondent superior” or “vicariously liable” for the acts of the teacher. It’s no different than if a pizza delivery company’s pizza driver hits you in a car accident. You have the right to sue the pizza company. Suing the driver may not make much sense the driver is unlikely to have the kind of money to make you whole for your injuries.

The school district, however, has much deeper pockets to compensate you for your injuries. In a civil case against the school district, you have two main legal theories to pursue against the school district. The first is called negligent hiring. Negligent hiring means that the school district was negligent or acted improperly by hiring the teacher who committed the sex act. It may be that the school district either knew or should have known, through careful consideration, that the teacher posed a danger to students.

Sometimes school districts simply do not carefully vet their hires and they hire a teacher who has a known history of abuse, either sexual or physical, so it is not a big surprise or a deviation of character when the teacher sexually abuses a student. The second theory in a civil case to hold the school accountable is negligent supervision.

This just means that the school had a duty to make sure that they were properly overseeing the actions of their teachers. School districts can’t just turn a blind eye when their teachers commit sexual acts against their students at school.

In every negligence case, including those against the school, you have to prove that there was a duty—such as not sexually abusing students—the school district breached that duty and that your child was injured as a result of that breach. Proving this may or may not be difficult to do, depending on the facts of the case. The Jackman Law Firm can certainly help you prove your case.

Common Injuries from Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse by a school teacher or administrator can be very traumatizing to a student and leave them with serious injuries that may not be visible to the eye the way a physical injury may be. If your child has been sexually assaulted or abused by a teacher, getting them the help they need is crucial, and doing it in a timely way is even more crucial. Counselors, therapists, and psychologists are all good resources to treat a child who has been subject to sexual abuse. These injuries rarely just heal on their own, so ignoring them or believing they will resolve with time is not the best way to treat them.

How The Jackman Law Firm Can Help

If your child has been sexually abused or assaulted by a teacher or administrator, you have the right to bring a claim against the school district. The Jackman Law Firm can help you recover money for the following:

  • Emotional distress
  • Bills for ongoing therapy
  • Out of pocket expenses
  • Lost wages

The Jackman Law Firm has the resources to successfully get you the financial compensation you deserve for what your child has gone through because of the school district and the teacher’s negligence towards your child. Sexual abuse is an unthinkable act, especially when it comes from a trusted source, such as a teacher and school. Sometimes civil lawsuits send powerful messages to the other side and forcibly effect change so other students will not have to endure the same trauma.

Feel free to call The Jackman Law Firm for a free consultation. We want to help.

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