The idea that private schools are better at protecting their students from sexual abuse is a myth. Over the last few years, we have learned that many private schools have spent decades looking the other way and sweeping complaints under the rug when confronted with evidence of sexual abuse by school employees and volunteers.
Well-known and respected private schools like Horace Mann School, Darlington School, Choate Rosemary Hall, St. Paul’s, Taft School, St. George’s School, Milton Academy, Riverdale and the Kent School all have had problems with teachers sexually abusing students in their care. There are also numerous other private schools throughout the nation that have had similar sexual abuse problems.
Lax Boundaries Lead To Private School Sexual Abuse
In an interview with PBS News Hour, Attorney Paul Mones noted that it is the very atmosphere private schools try to cultivate that makes them a magnet for abusers. Institutions that are “known for congeniality, conviviality, informal relationships, calling the teachers by their first name, coming over to the teacher’s house for studying, maybe for a glass of wine…” become breeding grounds for abuse because smart abusers know how to take advantage of lax boundaries between children and adults.
Abusers are able to use this culture to their advantage. They emphasize the positive aspects of it in a way that allows them to groom not just their victims, but the entire community, ultimately normalizing behaviors that would otherwise be seen as red flags.
By the time sexual abuse occurs, the predator has ingrained themself in the system. They are respected and revered. Their actions may even be held up as models of ideal staff-student interaction. But behind closed doors, they are doing much more than educating their victims.
Schools Not Doing Enough To Prevent And Stop Abuse
Institutions that encourage close, informal relationships between staff and students, and then fail to supervise their employees to ensure the relationships that are developing are appropriate, are just as guilty as the abusers they harbor.
The actions of teachers, coaches, and support staff are all the responsibility of the school when the school has gone out of its way to foster a culture where abuse can flourish. Whether abuse occurs on or off-campus, private schools must be held accountable when their staff members are the perpetrators.
Passing the Trash
Even worse than not reporting abuse, is taking steps to hide it. Many private schools are guilty of a practice known in the education world as “passing the trash.”
When a teacher or other staff member is accused of sexual abuse, or even caught in the act, they are often fired unceremoniously and told to leave town. If the abuser goes quietly, the school will often give potential employers who call asking about the abuser a neutral or even positive review, with no mention of sexual abuse allegations.
In his interview with PBS, Attorney Mones highlights a case where a school promised an alleged abuser a recommendation on their way out the door. The story also talks about an alleged abuser fired from Choate, who then applied at another school under a slightly different name. Choate apparently noticed, but didn’t speak up until confronted about it by the media.
Private schools that look the other way, or try to address allegations of abuse in-house are just as guilty as the abusers they act to protect. It is sickening to consider how many children could have been protected from abuse if private schools did the right thing and reported suspected abuse to the authorities.
Sexual abuse of a minor is a crime. It should always be reported to the proper authorities. Institutions that knew or suspected their staff members were abusing students, and failed to report that information to police must be held accountable.
You Are Not Alone
To every victim-survivor out there, our message to you is this: you are not alone.
If you were abused, so were some of your peers. So were students that came before you, and so were students that came after you. By sharing your story with our team, we can begin the process of holding abusers and the institutions that chose to protect them accountable.
We are here to stand with you. We are here to spread the word that victims are not to blame.
New Statute of Limitations Law Opens a Window of Opportunity To Hold Abusers Accountable
Being sexually abused by an educator or other school staff member is something that can impact you for the rest of your life. That’s why it is never too late to hold abusers your abusers accountable.
California law is finally recognizing the importance of allowing victim-survivors of abuse to seek justice even decades after the fact. On October 13, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 218 into law. This new law gives past victims of sexual abuse more time to pursue justice, even if their claims were previously time-barred.
California victim-survivors now whose cases were previously time-barred are being given a three-year period in which they may file suit. From January 1, 2020 until December 31, 2022, anyone who was previously stopped from suing because their case was deemed too old has a second chance to seek justice. Victims may be eligible for compensation, but they will also get the satisfaction of knowing they are part of a movement that will hold enabling institutions accountable and ensure that kids today will not suffer a similar fate. In New York, Governor Cuomo just signed an extension to the Child Victims Act which gives all child sexual abuse victims including those victimized in private school and boarding school until August 14, 2021 to file a claim in court
Experience You Can Trust
The idea that paying for a private education makes a child safer is a myth. The culture of many private schools, and the lengths those schools will go to protect their own reputations instead of the children in their care, makes them a magnet for abusers.
For over 30 years, Attorney Paul Mones and his team have been helping victim-survivors of childhood sexual abuse hold their abusers and the organizations that empowered them, accountable. If you or a loved one was sexually abused by a teacher, coach, or another staff member in a private school – regardless of when it occurred – please contact our team to discuss your options.