School Sexual Abuse Lawsuits

Anyone who was the victim of sexual abuse at school can file a civil lawsuit against the school and get compensation. You can sue the school for failing to prevent the sexual abuse, even for incidents that happened decades ago. Any form or level of unwanted sexual touching can form the basis for a sexual abuse lawsuit.

This post will look at sexual abuse lawsuits filed against schools. These school sex abuse lawsuits can be brought by current or former students who were the victims of sexual abuse committed by a teacher or another student at school. Successful plaintiffs can get significant financial compensation.


UPDATES:

April 17, 2024 – McDonogh School Sex Abuse Lawsuit in Maryland

A former student has filed a lawsuit against the McDonogh School, claiming he was sexually abused by Alvin Levy, the school’s former Dean of Students, from 1980 to 1984.

The lawsuit, lodged in the United States District Court of Maryland, contends that the school has previously evaded accountability for such abuse. The legal action is facilitated by the Maryland Child Victim Act, which eliminates previous limitations on the time frame for filing abuse lawsuits.

This follows a 2019 report revealing that multiple former faculty members had allegedly assaulted students from the 1940s to the mid-1980s, with some allegations known to school administrators who failed to act.

Levy, who died before he could stand trial on charges from a 1992 indictment, is accused in the lawsuit of multiple acts of sexual misconduct on school premises.

April 14, 2024 – New Chicago School Sex Abuse Lawsuit

A former student of Chicago Public Schools has filed a lawsuit against the district and a former high school administrator, alleging that she was sexually abused by the administrator during her time at Little Village Lawndale High School. The lawsuit, which identifies the plaintiff as Jane Doe, was filed in Cook County Circuit Court and accuses the district of failing to protect her. It follows criminal sexual assault charges brought against the former dean, Brian Crowder, in 2022.

The lawsuit details that the abuse occurred from 2012 to 2016, starting when the plaintiff was a sophomore. It began with sexually explicit messages sent via Snapchat and escalated to sexual assaults at the administrator’s home. According to the lawsuit, other faculty members made inappropriate jokes about the relationship and did not act on signs of abuse, despite the plaintiff confiding in a teacher who did not report the abuse immediately. This inaction allowed the abuse to continue, the lawsuit alleges.

Crowder has not been employed by the district since September 2021, following an investigation into the allegations. He was charged in August 2022 and is currently held on $75,000 bond.

February 1, 2024 – Los Angeles School Sex Abuse Settlement of $3.55 Million

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has agreed to a $3.55 million settlement for two sexual abuse at school claims related to the misconduct of a former teacher at Miramonte Elementary School.

This settlement adds to the significant financial compensations previously made by LAUSD, which include a record $140 million to 81 victims in 2014 and about $30 million to the families of 65 students, all of whom were victims of Mark Berndt.

Berndt, who pleaded no contest in 2013 to 23 charges of lewd conduct upon a child, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for his actions, which included feeding cookies laced with bodily fluids to children and taking inappropriate photographs of them.

The recent settlements, amounting to $1.85 million for Jane RE Doe and $1.7 million for John AE Doe, arise from lawsuits that accused Berndt of sexually harassing, abusing, and molesting the victims multiple times between 2004 and 2008.

These lawsuits also alleged that the Miramonte administration and LAUSD officials had long ignored complaints about Berndt’s behavior, which dated back to the early 1980s.

December 11, 2023 – St. Lawrence College Sex Abuse and Trafficking Lawsuit

A lawsuit has been filed against Sarah Lawrence College by two former students and the sister of one of them. They allege that the college neglected to safeguard them from a recently released prisoner who developed manipulative, cult-like connections with them.

This man, the father of a student, took up residence in his daughter’s dormitory and exploited her peers. He was later convicted on various charges, including racketeering and sex trafficking, having forced some into prostitution and financial abuse.

The lawsuit accuses Sarah Lawrence College of partial responsibility for their plight due to its inaction despite the man’s evident and extended stay on campus. Reports of his abusive behavior were ignored by the college, even though he lived in the dormitory for nearly an academic year. The plaintiffs are seeking compensation for their trauma, medical expenses, and lost earnings.

November 13, 2023 – $9.7 Million School Sex Abuse Settlement

Montgomery County Public Schools has agreed to a $9.7 million settlement with four former Damascus High School football players who were victims of sexual assault in 2017 and 2018, marking the end of a scandal that has lingered for five years.

The assaults, described as “vicious” and occurring in an unsupervised locker room, led to a lawsuit against the school district, highlighting a grave oversight in student safety and supervision. This settlement, stemming from incidents that shocked the community and were part of a broader pattern of alleged assaults at Damascus, Maryland, and other high schools, represents a significant financial acknowledgment of the harm suffered by the victims.

In response to the sex abuse settlement, Montgomery County Public Schools stated they have implemented extensive measures to prevent similar incidents, including increased monitoring and oversight of locker rooms district-wide.

However, despite the school district’s denial of liability and efforts to enhance safety protocols, the Parents Coalition of Montgomery County criticizes the lack of transparency and accountability, suggesting a pattern of inadequate response to such serious incidents.

Who Can File a School Sexual Abuse Lawsuit?

Anyone who has been the victim of sexual assault or sexual abuse at school can file a civil lawsuit against the school. The individual victim of the assault or abuse is the plaintiff. In some cases, the victim’s spouse can also be a plaintiff and bring a separate claim for loss of companionship (loss of consortium). If the abuse happened at school and was committed by a teacher or another student, the school can be held liable for negligently failing to protect the victim. Even if a teacher or student did not commit the sexual abuse, the school can still be held liable if the abuse happened on school grounds.

What is Sexual Abuse or Assault?

Legally, sexual abuse or sexual assault is defined very broadly as any type or form of unwanted (non-consensual) sexual touching. This can include an extensive range of acts, from touching someone’s private area to forcible rape. Two primary elements must be present for something to be considered sexual abuse: (1) sexual intent and (2) lack of consent.

The act must be done with sexual intent, which means sexual touching is intentionally done for sexual gratification or arousal. Intent is the key here. If someone accidentally touches private parts in a crowded elevator, there is no intent, and it is not sexual battery. The second element is the lack of consent. Anyone under the age of 18 cannot consent to sexual touching.

Schools Can Be Held Liable for Sexual Abuse

In any sexual abuse case, the victim can always sue the individual who committed the abuse. However, suing the abuser is often pointless because they usually don’t have money to cover any verdict or settlement. When the abuse happens at school, however, the victim can file a sex abuse lawsuit against the school. Schools have insurance and financial resources to pay for settlements or verdicts, which makes them much more viable defendants in a civil school abuse lawsuit.

Schools can be held liable for sexual abuse or assault under a number of negligence theories. If the abuse is committed by a teacher at the school, the school can be held liable for negligent hiring or retention of the teacher.

EXAMPLE:  While Jane was a student at Acme Private School she was sexually abused by her school guidance counselor John. John worked at the school for 10 years and during that time, at least 2 previous complaints had been made about inappropriate conduct involving female students. The complaints were never fully investigated by the school, and John continued in his employment. Jane can bring a sexual abuse lawsuit against both John and Acme Private School.

If another student committed the abuse, the school can be held liable under theories of negligent security for failing to provide adequate protection. Negligent security theories can also be used to hold schools liable for sexual abuse or assault that happens on school grounds.

Do You Need to Pursue Criminal Charges Before Suing for Sexual Abuse?

Victims of sexual abuse or assault are not required to pursue criminal prosecution before bringing a civil lawsuit against the abuser. Victims can file a civil suit for sexual assault even if they never reported the assault or abuse to the police. There can be many reasons why a victim may choose not to report a sexual assault or not to cooperate with criminal charges against the abuser.

If the sexual assault is reported to the police and criminal charges are brought, the outcome of the criminal action against the abuser will also have no impact on the victim’s right to bring a civil lawsuit. Even if the abuser goes to trial on the sexual assault charges and gets acquitted, they can still be successfully sued in a civil case. Proving sexual assault or abuse in a civil lawsuit is much easier than proving it in a criminal case.

Is Sexual Abuse or Assault Easier to Prove in a Civil Lawsuit Compared to Criminal?

The burden of proof for a plaintiff in a sexual abuse/assault lawsuit is significantly lower than the burden of proof the prosecution faces in a criminal case for the same sexual misconduct. The well-known standard in criminal cases requires proof “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This is a very high standard of proof that can be very difficult to reach in sexual assault cases because there is often a “he said/she said” dispute about consent.

But in a civil lawsuit against a school district, the standard is preponderance of the evidence or “more likely than not.”  For school sex abuse lawyers, this is a game changer.  This is a much easier standard to prove, which is why you see large school district lawsuit settlements and verdicts, often against perpetrators who are not in jail.

What is the Statute of Limitations for a Sex Abuse Lawsuit?

The statute of limitations for filing a sexual abuse lawsuit varies by state. Some states have ridiculously short limitation periods of two years or less for sexual abuse in school. But the sex abuse statutes of limitations laws are improving. Many states have longer limitations of four years or more. The applicable deadline for filing a sexual assault lawsuit will also depend on whether the victim is an adult or a minor (under 18) at the time of the assault or abuse.

Trend Is Toward Long Statute of Limitations or No Deadline to File

Many states have recently passed new laws that significantly extend the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits involving childhood sexual abuse. A few states, including Maryland, have actually eliminated the statute of limitations for child sex abuse civil lawsuits.

What Impacts the Settlement Value of School Sex Abuse Lawsuits

Various factors drive the settlement value of school sex abuse lawsuits. These factors help determine the appropriate settlement amount and the likelihood of agreement between the parties involved.

  • Nature of the Abuse: The nature and type of sexual abuse in the case have a significant impact on settlement value. Sex abuse of a child or sexual assault involving violence or force is going to be worth more compared to abuse that involves an adult victim where consent is contested.
  • Strength of Evidence: Cases in which the sex abuse allegations are well supported by strong, reliable external evidence such as medical records or witness testimony will have a higher settlement value because the plaintiff is more likely to win at trial.
  • Liability Theory Against School: If you have a very strong negligence liability claim against the school, your case will be worth more. For example, if a teacher on school property committed sexual abuse, and that teacher had prior incidents of misconduct that the school swept under the rug, you will have a very strong negligence case against the school, which will drive up the settlement value.
  • Who Your Lawyer Is: Your sex abuse lawyer’s experience, skill, and reputation play a major role in determining the settlement value of your case.

School Sex Abuse Verdicts and Settlements

Below are summaries of verdicts and reported settlements in school sex abuse lawsuits in which the school was held liable for sexual abuse.

  • $3,500,000 Settlement (Oregon 2024): The St. Helens School District in Oregon has reached a $3.5 million settlement to resolve a sex abuse lawsuit. This case centered around allegations that the district did not take sufficient action to stop a high school teacher’s predatory conduct toward female students. This misconduct persisted until the teacher was arrested for sexually abusing the plaintiff. The legal action accused the district of “deliberate indifference” to the teacher’s predatory behavior, which had been known to the administration for more than ten years.  How many of you remember a teacher everyone thought was a predator in high school?  No one is allowing a blind eye to be turned any longer in 2024.  The lawsuit pointed out widespread systemic issues, such as poor accountability, insufficient record-keeping, and a failure to conduct internal investigations that could have prevented such incidents. The teacher at the heart of these allegations has been sentenced to only four years in prison, which is a whole different problem. This settlement, which the district’s insurance will pay, was reached after a federal judge determined the lawsuit could move forward.  Defendants do not want to take these cases to trial, so a settlement is almost always the best path.
  • $100,000,000 Settlement (West Virginia 2023): Former students alleged severe mistreatment at a private school, leading to numerous civil lawsuits. The complaints against this boarding school detailed various forms of abuse, including physical, sexual, and emotional harm. Students were reportedly confined in small, windowless “quarantine rooms” without basic amenities, sometimes for prolonged periods. These rooms lacked plumbing, heating, or cooling, with the only light switch located outside, often leaving the children in darkness. While in these rooms, students were given a bucket as a toilet, with limited food like bread and fruit or rice and beans. The school faced accusations of hiding evidence by destroying documents and making modifications to the rooms. It was just one big cover-up of their inhumane treatment of these children.   After a school abuse lawsuit and years of legal proceedings, a settlement amount of approximately $100 million was reached.
  • $950,000 Settlement (Illinois 2022): The plaintiff was a girl who claimed that her kindergarten teacher sexually molested her at a public school in the Chicago suburbs. Her family hired a school sex abuse lawyer who filed a lawsuit that claimed the school system was aware of at least one prior allegation of sexual misconduct against the teacher, but the school failed to investigate the claim, and the teacher remained employed. The case eventually settled for $950,000.
  • $125,000 Settlement (New Jersey 2022): The plaintiff alleged that while she was a 14-year-old student at the defendant school district, she was subjected to repeated sexual assault by her high school teacher.  She hired a lawyer who filed suit against the school district for negligently failing to protect her from the abuse. Like most teacher-student sexual abuse cases, the school district claimed it did not know the teacher’s actions, and the plaintiff admittedly never reported him.  That is what likely led to the low sex abuse settlement in this case. More on New Jersey Sex Abuse Lawsuits.
  • $2,000,000 Settlement (Washington 2021): The plaintiff in this lawsuit sued a public school district, alleging that she was sexually abused over three years during high school by her school band and music teacher. The lawsuit accused the school of negligence for failing to supervise the teacher properly and failing to protect her from sexual abuse. Washington Sex Abuse Lawsuits
  • $2.500,000 Settlement (Illinois 2021): A former student brought a lawsuit against a school system. The plaintiff claimed that her 3rd-grade teacher sexually abused her and that the school system was negligent in hiring the teacher without a property background check and for failing to implement policies that could have prevented the abuse from occurring. Illinois Sex Abuse Lawsuits
  • $200,000 Settlement (Pennsylvania 2017): The plaintiff sued her former high school in Pennridge School District, alleging that she was sexually abused on 15 separate occasions by the district’s basketball team coach. Pennsylvania Sex Abuse Lawsuits

Contact Us About School Sex Abuse Lawsuits

If you are thinking about bringing a sexual abuse lawsuit against a school, contact our sex abuse lawyers today for free consultation. Contact us online or call us at 800-553-8082.

Contact Information