Before the pandemic, it was common for our children to spend at least six hours a day at school. And for children who participated in sports or other extracurricular activities, that could stretch into 8 hours a day or more.
While we expect the people entrusted with the safety of our children to protect them, sometimes the exact opposite happens. If you or a loved one were sexually molested at school, call the school child sex abuse lawyers at The Dominguez Firm for a free and completely confidential consultation today. Our compassionate and experienced attorneys are available to help you at 800-818-1818.
The history of child sex abuse in the LAUSD
A 2015 study by Johns Hopkins University estimated the annual cost of child sexual abuse at $9.3 billion. Here in California, there have been several high profile cases against the Los Angeles Unified School District and other area school districts for child sexual abuse.
To date, LAUSD has paid out over $300 million to survivors of child sexual abuse in its schools in the last four years alone. Among the most prominent were:
- $140 million – This total was awarded to 82 child sex abuse survivors who were victimized by a single teacher, Mark Berndt at Miramonte Elementary School. For decades, several accusations of improper behavior by both parents and students were largely ignored by school administrators dating back to 1983. This allowed the abuse to continue for more than 30 years. Berndt is currently serving a prison sentence of 25 years to life for his crimes. It is believed he may have abused over 100 children.
- $88 million – LAUSD paid this amount to settle 30 cases of child sexual abuse at two elementary schools. 18 cases were at De La Torre Elementary and 12 occurred at Telfair Elementary. As with the abuse at Miramonte Elementary School, the district had information on the abusive teachers but did nothing to stop them. The De La Torre settlement was for $58 million while the Telfair settlement was for $40 million.
- $6.9 million – This is the largest payout for a single victim to date. The abuse occurred at Queen Anne Place Elementary. In this case a fifth grade teacher sexually abused a 10 year old boy beginning in October of 2008. The abuse did not stop until July of 2009 when the child told his father what was happening. The teacher, Forrest Stobbe was arrested and eventually convicted for his crimes. He is currently serving a 16 year prison sentence.
The same pattern of indifference and incompetence on the part of LAUSD comes through in every one of these cases. Not only were many of these teachers allowed to keep working and abusing students, they weren’t even investigated. This in spite of multiple parent and teacher complaints about inappropriate and suspicious behavior.
Even worse, LAUSD lawyers aggressively went after the abused children themselves on several occasions. In one of the most particularly horrific attempts to deflect blame, a so-called expert witness for the LAUSD claimed that a 9 year old girl with a low IQ who had been sexually assaulted numerous times by a boy at her school could not suffer much psychological damage from her ordeal because of her lower intelligence.
Public vs. Private School Child Sex Abuse Claims
If a child is sexually abused at any school, be it public or private, their parents have a right to file a claim against the school. But the process is somewhat different if your child was sexually abused in a private school. Because they do not take money from the government, you must prove negligence or breach of contract. The school child sexual abuse attorneys at The Dominguez Firm have successfully handled both public and private school claims and know how to approach each one effectively.
Sex Abuse in Colleges and Universities
Child sex abuse is not limited to elementary and secondary schools. High school and college students under the age of 18 can also suffer sexual abuse. Recently, one of the most notorious cases was the sexual abuse scandal at USC involving campus gynecologist George Tyndall. To date, USC has paid $215 million to the women he abused. Incredibly, it’s believed he abused over 18,000 women since he began working at the private university in 1989.
If the abuse occurred before your child turned 18, you have the right to file a claim against the abuser and the university in question. Keep in mind, if the abuse occurred after your child turned 18 years of age, they will have to file the lawsuit themselves.
What is a Mandated Reporter?
Under the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act of 1980, certain people are legally obligated to report suspected child sexual and physical abuse. Originally, only doctors had this responsibility, but today, there is a clearly defined list of people who come into contact with children on a daily basis with this responsibility.
The entire list of mandated reporters can be found here. Among the most prominent are:
- Instructional aides
- Teacher’s aides or public or private school assistants
- Public school employees
- Social workers
Mandated reporters must report any suspected sexual abuse to either local law enforcement or the county child welfare department right away.
What are your options if your child has been sexually abused in school?
The sexual abuse of a child is a parent’s worst nightmare. Of course, what happened can’t be undone, but those responsible can be made to pay via a civil lawsuit. And the lawsuit does not have to be limited to just the abuser. The school involved can also be named. This is especially true if there was evidence that the school failed to act or even worse, covered-up the abuse to save its reputation.
Another important point to keep in mind is that unlike a criminal case, the abuser’s liability does not have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The burden of proof is lower. In a civil case for child sex abuse, the victim needs to show the abuser’s actions should lead to damages based on a preponderance of the evidence. That means the evidence does not have to be absolute, as in a criminal case.
The school child sex abuse attorneys at The Dominguez Firm can help
If you or someone you love was sexually molested at school, you have the legal right to sue your abuser in civil court. And if you think that time has run out on your right to sue, it probably hasn’t. That’s because California recently changed the statute of limitations (time limits) for child sex abuse cases. In the past, victims had until the age of 26 or three years from when they became aware of the sexual abuse. Now, the limit is up until the age of 40 or five years from when the victim became aware of the abuse. This gives victims a much needed extension in their ability to file lawsuits against their abusers.
And if you’re worried about the cost of hiring an attorney from The Dominguez Firm, you shouldn’t be. That’s because our attorneys work on a contingency basis. That means there are no upfront fees or hidden costs. We retain a percentage of the final settlement or verdict amount. That percentage will be clearly stated in the client agreement you sign with us. And in the unlikely event that we don’t secure any damages, you owe us nothing. In other words, you win, or you don’t pay! So, don’t wait, call The Dominguez Firm at 800-818-1818 for a free and completely confidential consultation today.