Well-meaning and loving parents want the best for their children. For many, that means sending their kids to private schools to receive a quality education. Private educational institutions often have a reputation for being safer than their public counterparts.
Sadly, sexual abuse can happen just about anywhere, and private schools are no exception.
Being sexually abused by an authority figure at or associated with a private school is more than just a violation of a child's body— it's also a profound betrayal of trust, safety, and security. If your child was the victim of private school sexual abuse, and suffered physical or psychological trauma as a result, he or she may be entitled to compensation. Here's what you need to know before taking legal action.
Private Schools Have a Duty to Protect Students
Most private schools don't accept federal funding, thus exempting them from Title IX requirements that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, including sexually based harassment and abuse. These institutions still have a professional responsibility to protect students from harm and provide a positive learning environment free from sexual harassment and abuse.
Institutions that voluntarily implement anti-discrimination rules and procedures similar to Title IX—which is considered standard best practice in the field of education administration—can protect students and administrations. Institutions that turn a blind eye to hostile learning environments rife with crimes such as sexual harassment and abuse may be open to negligence- or breach of contract-related litigation.
Signs of Childhood Sexual Abuse
Private school administrators, teachers, employees, and volunteers are afforded a veneer of authority that can provide predators with the cover they need to perpetrate unspeakable sexual offenses against their minor victims. While these sexual predators often know better than to outwardly behave inappropriately with their victims, there are still signs and behaviors parents can watch for which indicate a cause for concern.
For example, predators often “groom” their victims prior to abuse in order to earn their trust. Common grooming behaviors such as singling a child out for special attention and taking him or her “under their wing” can seem rather innocent—especially coming from someone who works in the educational field and expresses an interest in helping a student succeed. However, suspected grooming behaviors combined with a sudden change in a child's conduct or attitude may be a sign of abuse.
Additional grooming behaviors can include:
- Giving children meaningful gifts or notes for no reason
- Communicating with students outside of school for reasons unrelated to their education
- Becoming an important figure in the child's life
- Isolating them
- Creating secrecy around the relationship
Child sexual abuse victims may exhibit signs such as:
- Sudden changes in behavior, including mood swings, insecurity, or self-isolation
- Nightmares or other unexplained sleep issues
- Loss of appetite or refusal to eat
- A new or unusual fear of going to school, or of a specific person associated with school
- Unusual or age-inappropriate knowledge of sexual terms and behaviors
- Drawing or discussing frightening imagery or sexual acts
- Sudden refusal of hugs or appropriate touches
- Feelings of shame associated with themselves or their body
In teens, signs of sexual abuse can also include:
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Sexual promiscuity
- Anxiety or depression
- Running away from home
- Sudden lack of concern—or sudden fixation—with their appearance
- Suicide attempts
Seeking Help for Sexual Abuse at Private School
If your child has disclosed sexual abuse that occurred at a private school, or with a private school employee or volunteer, seek appropriate medical care for them. Additionally, notify local law enforcement to begin an investigation into potential criminal charges.
You can also take steps to hold your child's abuser and private school accountable in civil court. A monetary award from a successful negligence- or breach of contract-related claim not only holds the sexual predator—and potentially the institution that protected them—financially responsible, but also provide the funds necessary for your child to receive treatment to help him or her begin the healing process.
Contact Us to Schedule a Consultation
The skilled attorneys with DRZ represent victims sexually abused at private schools throughout the U.S. If your child was sexually abused at a private school or by private school personnel or volunteers, or you were sexually abused at a private school you attended as a minor, our attorneys can help you understand your legal rights and options.
Contact DRZ Law in the Kansas City metro area today to schedule an appointment for a free initial case consultation.