School Sexual Abuse Lawyer

Last updated Dec 11, 2023

Schools and universities should take reasonable measures to help prevent sexual abuse from occurring. If they do not, survivors may be able to hold them accountable for the harm they may have suffered.

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Key Takeaways

  • Sexual assault may occur in an educational institution that fails to take reasonable measures to prevent or properly deal with instances of assault on school or university grounds.
  • Most of the sexual violence at K-12 schools include relations with someone much older, whether it be a school employee or a peer.
  • Survivors of sexual abuse may hold the academic institution liable for compensatory damages for failing to prevent or report sexual assault.

Schools and Universities Sex Abuse Lawsuits

Sexual assault can happen to anyone in almost any setting, including schools and universities. While educational institutions are obligated to create a safe for students, unfortunately, some institutions fail to do this by not taking reasonable measures to prevent or properly deal with instances of sexual assault on school grounds. When this happens, the school may be held accountable for its negligence.

At Edwards Henderson, we represent individuals who are survivors of sexual assault. If you or your child experienced sexual abuse or assault at school, you may be eligible for compensation. A compassionate and experienced school sex abuse lawyer can help you understand the obligations the school or university involved has in preventing sexual assault and further explore your options for seeking compensation.

Sexual Abuse in K-12 Schools

Parents put a lot of trust in teachers and school administrators to care for and protect their children when under their supervision for the majority of the day. Schools have a legal obligation to not only educate students but also to protect them from any harm. With such a large number of people present on campus at all times, it is important for school administrators and employers to take the necessary precautions to protect students from anyone who may be a threat to their safety. Unfortunately, there have been cases of students that have been assaulted by school employees, administrators, teachers, counselors, other staff, and even peers.

The Education Department has reported that sexual violence at K-12 schools has increased. While there were about 9,600 reports of sexual violence in the 2015-2016 school year, that number jumped to about 15,000 in the following school year, an increase of more than 50%.

Unfortunately, the rates of sexual violence within schools keep rising at alarming rates. For these students, most instances of sexual assault include relations with someone much older, whether it be a school employee or a peer, who may groom the child over a long period of time.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines sexual assault against children as “any attempted completed or attempted (non-completed) sexual act, sexual contact with, or exploitation (i.e., noncontact sexual interaction) of a child by a caregiver,” making it possible for cases of sexual assault to be physical and non-physical. Examples of non-physical sexual assault include exposing oneself to a child, sexual dialogue, and psychological pressure or coercion to engage in sexual acts.

Sexual Abuse in Universities

Students who attend university may be at risk of experiencing nonconsensual sexual advances and assaults. A study conducted by the American Association of University Women revealed that roughly one in 10 college students report being raped or assaulted while in school. Many of these incidents go unreported. According to the study, only 20% of female students report an assault or rape.

The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) reports that sexual abuse on a college campus is more pervasive and likely to happen than any other crime. Female students are not the only targets of this misconduct as about 23.1% of TGQN (transgender, genderqueer, nonconforming) university students have been sexually assaulted.

Most university campuses have law enforcement officers available to address and respond to instances of sexual assault. Their significant roles typically involve having a rape prevention program in place and at least one staff member responsible for survivor response and assistance. As of recently, about 75% of four-year academic institutions employ armed law enforcement officers, a 10% increase in the last 10 years to reflect the need for more protection on campus.

Who May Be Held Liable for School and University Sex Abuse?

Although a large portion of the fault goes to the abuser themselves, the schools and universities, and any other related party, may also be potentially held responsible for the crime. This is because the administration behind these institutions has a duty to thoroughly run background checks on their employees and volunteers as well as take thorough preventative measures to reduce the likelihood of sexual assault occurring.

If an academic institution fails to take the necessary preventative measures and an incident of sexual assault occurs on school grounds, the school or university may be held liable for its role in the crime. An issue surrounding many schools or universities is a culture of secrecy or lack of acknowledgment of sexual assault instances, further allowing abusers to harm students with a lack of consequences. Often, instances of rape and assault are kept under wraps in order to protect the reputation of the school.

Even if a student reports their assault, inconsistent policies or reporting may result in little to no justice. Systemic issues such as these may discourage students from speaking up about their abuse, which may make it easier for campus assaults to continue. This is why holding educational institutions accountable for their part in preventing and reporting these crimes is important to decreasing the rates at which school sex abuse happens.

Can You File a Lawsuit Against a School for Sexual Abuse?

Survivors of sexual abuse may be eligible to sue their abuser as well as the institution that may have created an environment in which the abuse could occur. When filing a lawsuit against a school, survivors must show evidence that it was negligent and had a part in the abuse. This can be proven by showing how the institution failed to act when the sexual misconduct was made known or by simply employing an abuser in the first place.

No matter how old you or your child are, survivors of school sexual abuse may be able to file civil lawsuits against the school where the abuse occurred. Contacting a school sex abuse attorney at Edwards Henderson can help you understand the steps and benefits of filing a lawsuit, as well as any relevant statute of limitations (deadlines) for filing a lawsuit.

We understand how challenging it can be to speak up about school sexual abuse, especially when it concerns your children or your own traumatic experiences. However, our school sex abuse law firm is ready to handle your case with patience and compassion in order to help give you the justice and peace of mind you need.

Contact Edwards Henderson For Help

If you or a loved one are a survivor of school sex abuse, you are not alone. The school sex abuse attorneys at Edwards Henderson are here to compassionately advocate for your rights. Our legal team has the experience and settlement results to thoughtfully handle your case. Time is of the essence in cases of sexual assault. Contact Edwards Henderson now to learn more about your legal options during a free legal consultation.


This page was last updated with new information on June 20, 2023.

May 15, 2023 Update:

In schools across the United States, child sex offenders move from one school district to another to work as teachers and have increased access to unsuspecting students. According to a 2010 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, one offender can pass through 3 school districts and abuse as many as 73 children in their lifetime before being stopped. Unfortunately, little is being done to hold third parties accountable and the incidents continue without much monitoring. 

June 20, 2023 Update:

Israel Santiago, a music teacher, was recently arrested over allegations of sexual abuse of 10 students beginning in 2021 at Adelante Dual Language Academy. Santiago had been accused of sexual abuse by multiple students way back in 2014, but was not fired by Alum Rock Union Elementary School District. Instead, he was issued a letter of reprimand and asked to transfer schools. Santiago’s next court hearing is scheduled for July 14.

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