It is estimated that 1 out of every 10 children will experience sexual misconduct at the hands of a trusted teacher, coach, or other school official by the time they graduate high school. On average, a teacher will be transferred to three different schools before they are reported to police. In reality, these numbers likely do not accurately represent the growing scourge of educator sexual misconduct in our schools; the incident rate is likely much higher. Crimes of a sexual nature remain the most underreported of crimes. Further, empirical research in the context of school-related sexual abuse is extremely limited. There are no national surveys that collect incident data on school employee sexual misconduct and there is no comprehensive, searchable national database to manage and track reported incidents.
As a direct result of a lack of understanding, awareness, and reporting of these acts, parents hold their children’s hands and walk them into what has turned into a safe haven for sexual predators: school. The vast majority of schoolteachers are people who have our children’s best interests at heart and seek to better the children’s lives and the community as a whole. However, the unfortunate and terrifying reality is that any youth-serving organization will always be a target for sexual predators. As institutions continue to bury their heads in the sand in an effort “keep things quiet,” this epidemic continues to grow. At Cohen & Malad, LLP we receive many calls relating to educator sexual misconduct, and we currently represent several children who’ve been victimized by their trusted teachers.
Legal representation for child survivors of sexual abuse by a teacher
In one case, our client was a fourteen-year-old honor roll student who was subjected to months of harassment and inappropriate sexual innuendo at the hands of her social studies teacher before it ultimately culminated in sexual assault. Kristen,* an eighth grader, endured months of sexual jokes, racy comments, and inappropriate looks before she was attacked at a school dance by her teacher. Her teacher snuck up on Kristen from behind, forcefully grabbed her hips, and thrust his penis toward her buttocks. But the abuse did not stop there. Despite being reported to school officials, the teacher was not relieved of his duties. In fact, the teacher was able to orchestrate a time to be alone with Kristen in a classroom. While alone, the teacher sexually assaulted Kristen. Sadly, Kristen was not the first victim of this teacher. For years, parents and students alike had complained about the teacher’s inappropriate behavior. The school did nothing to protect Kristen or other kids or to prevent her assault.
In another case, our client was a shining star in her high school’s Fine Arts program. Reeling from her parent’s difficult divorce, Elaine* found a second home within her theatre class. The director of the theatre program homed in on Elaine’s vulnerability and seized this opportunity to groom Elaine and eventually start a sexual relationship with her. What began as the theatre teacher confiding things about his personal life to Elaine escalated to them making out in the school theatre and eventually to sexual intercourse both inside and outside of the school. Elaine was just seventeen years old; her abuser was forty-seven years old. Again, the high school had been on notice for a number of years about the theatre teacher’s bad behavior. Yet, nothing was done. This school, too, failed to protect its children.
These are only two instances of on-going litigation against Indiana educators accused of sexually abusing kids. Educator sexual misconduct is rife within our society. With no apparent incentive and certainly no consequences, many schools continue to have culpability in this matter as they continue to look the other way. Contact us if you or your child were sexually abused by a trusted teacher, aide, or coach.
*Names have been changed to protect confidentiality.