While most public school teachers do a good job educating their students, there are those who take advantage of the immense trust and respect placed in them to gratify their sick sexual desires. The sexual abuse of public school students in our education system is a widespread problem.
Attorney Paul Mones and his team have spent the last 30 years fighting to hold abusers and the institutions that harbor them accountable for the pain they have caused. Paul has handled numerous cases of abuse by public school employees. It doesn’t matter if the abuser is a teacher, coach, or school administrator, Paul is ready to hold those responsible accountable.
Schools Are Not Doing Enough To Prevent And Stop Public School Sexual Abuse
As publicly funded institutions, it is the responsibility of our schools to not only educate our students, but protect them from harm. When it comes to shielding kids from sexual abuse, our schools are simply not doing enough.
All school staff members should be trained to spot the signs of sexual abuse, and know that reporting even the suspicion of abuse to the proper authorities is mandatory.
Teachers and other staff members who closely interact with children, including coaches, guidance counselors, and resource officers must be properly supervised. It is often the most beloved staff members that are exposed as abusers, so nobody should be exempt from scrutiny.
It is no coincidence that when abusers get caught you often hear members of the community saying things like, “I can’t believe she would do something like that.” Or “He was such a nice guy.” Pedophiles are extremely good at keeping their illicit activities a secret and cultivating a positive public persona.
They do this by grooming their victims and the broader community. Grooming is a tactic sexual predators use to integrate themselves into a community, build trust, and procure victims they can use to satisfy their sexual urges.
As a teacher or school staff member, a pedophile has instant credibility and an excuse to be near their preferred victims. They use this to their advantage to push the boundaries of appropriate behavior. They might start by showing a child favoritism in the classroom, giving them extra attention and making a vulnerable child feel valued.
Gradually, their attention to the child will increase. They might buy their target small gifts, or start sending electronic messages and hanging out after school. Once there is a foundation of trust, the touching starts. At first, it may be an innocent pat on the back, but over time the intimacy level will steadily increase until the predator is able to get his or her sexual urges fulfilled by the child.
By this time, the child has such a close relationship with their abuser, he or she may believe what they are doing is okay because they trust their teacher to know what is best. Or the child may understand they are being abused, but be too scared or embarrassed to speak up. Either way, the abuser has won.
While sexual abuse may ultimately occur off school property, if it began on campus, the school must be held responsible for its failure to properly supervise its staff.
As Guilty As The Abusers They Chose To Protect
Unfortunately, the response of many school districts that discover a staff member has been sexually abusing students is to downplay and deny. If this sounds eerily familiar, it is because the Catholic church, USA Gymnastics, and the Boy Scouts of America all did the same thing before their day of reckoning came.
Instead of confronting abuse head-on, many public schools have entered into confidential settlements, done clandestine financial deals, and quietly shuffled abusers out the door. These actions end up protecting schools and abusers, not our children. Institutions that take this cowardly path should be held just as responsible for the abuse that they have attempted to hide as the abusers they chose to protect.
Passing The Trash
Worse than covering up abuse is actively facilitating it. Many public schools are guilty of a practice known in the education industry 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 expected to discreetly resign. There is an understanding that if they go quietly, the school won’t contact the authorities or mention sexual abuse should a potential employer call about a reference.
The next year the teacher has a job at a new school, and access to new victims. The school has succeeded in passing its trash along, but has failed to protect students. The research is clear: except in the most rare and unusual circumstances, adults who are attracted to, or sexually aroused by minors, do not typically change their behavior. It is only a matter of time before the abuser grooms a new victim in their new school district.
Failing to report suspected abuse to the proper authorities, and instead passing the trash to another district makes a school just as guilty as the abusers it chose to protect over the students it betrayed. It is time to hold public schools accountable for the abuse they had the power to stop but didn’t.
A New Window Of Opportunity To Hold Abusers Accountable
Now is the time to take action and hold public schools accountable for sexual abuse that they could have prevented.
On October 13, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 218 into law. This new law gives past victims of sexual abuse a new window of opportunity to seek justice. From January 1, 2020 until December 31, 2022, any student who was sexually abused has the opportunity to file a lawsuit. Even abuse that was previously determined to have occurred too long ago to do anything about is now actionable. In New York, Governor Cuomo just extended the Child Victims Act to August 14, 2021 for all victims of child sexual abuse, including those who were abused by their public school teachers in New York.
These are important changes in the law because scientific research has revealed that victims of childhood sexual abuse often need years or decades to come to terms with what happened to them. Lawmakers are giving the voiceless a rare chance to speak up, and speak out against their abusers. This may never happen again.
Now is our chance to hold abusers, and the institutions that sheltered them, responsible for the harm they caused. We say “our” here because we want victim-survivors to know that we have their back.
Too often, we hear from victim-survivors that they thought they were alone. Until they saw a story on the news about others who were abused, or something in their mind clicked, they thought they were the only one who went through what they did. They lived for years trying to push memories of the abuse to the back of their mind. They spent years thinking they did something wrong instead of blaming the predator that hurt them, or the organization that failed them.
A Lawyer For Victims of Sexual Abuse Committed By A Teacher
We are here to say you are not alone. We see you. We have helped others like you. We are ready to stand and fight with you.
If you or a loved one was sexually abused by a teacher, coach, or other public school staff member – regardless of when it occurred – please contact our team to discuss your options.