If a child suffers sexual abuse at school, the child’s parents may be able to file a lawsuit against the school district based on violation of a federal law known as Title IX.
When Sexual Abuse Happens at School
Federal law provides specific protection against sexual abuse and misconduct for students in all federally funded schools. The Educational Amendments Act of 1972 established what is known as Title IX, originally implemented to provide equality for female students in educational institutions. Over the years, Title IX has expanded to include protections for all victims of sexual abuse in schools, including children, in schools that receive federal funding.
Under Title IX, federal law permits students or their parents to file a lawsuit against public schools that show indifference or disregard to sexual abuse and harassment by fellow students, teachers, and school employees. In some cases, school officials fail to recognize red flags in sexual abuse situations, such as a teacher giving extra attention to a particular student or negligent supervision of teachers and support staff. In other cases, school officials simply fail to take actions against sexual abuse or harassment within the school, even when it is reported.
Title IX Federal law offers protections for students against the following:
- Sexual abuse and/or harassment
- Sexually explicit comments
- Sexually explicit behaviors
- Unwanted sexual advances
- Sexual physical assaults
- Sexual coercion
Although Title IX federal law only applies to schools that received federal funding, a minor sexual assault lawyer can evaluate sexual assault situations that occur in other schools that are privately funded.
The U.S. Supreme Court sets a high bar for successful Title IX lawsuits. In order to win this type of lawsuit, a student must prove that the school: (1) knew about the school employee’s sexual abuse or harassment; (2) had the power to take corrective action; (3) did nothing to improve or correct the situation.
In some cases, students who are victims of sexual abuse and/or harassment may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the school based on negligence. In Nevada, the doctrine of respondeat superior, a form of vicarious liability, may hold schools liable for student harm caused by negligent acts or omissions of school employees. State laws can hold schools liable for a teacher’s negligent supervision that causes abuse, as well as a school’s hiring of an employee with a history of past abuse, if school officials knew of that history.