While law enforcement may be taking action against the perpetrators of the abuse, who is taking action against the school, church, or youth organization that allowed the abuse to occur? As the parent of an abused child, you have the right to hold the institution you trusted with your child’s safety accountable when they fail in their duty to protect children, but you need lawyers who understand this complex area of the law. At DRZ Law, we have extensive experience representing the parents of children who have been sexually abused, physically harmed, and bullied while in the care of trusted institutions. From our office in Kansas City, we represent families across the country.
Institutions Where Children Are Sexually Abused and Assaulted
Adult perpetrators of sexual abuse do everything they can to get into institutions where there are children. In some cases, older or physically larger children are the perpetrators of sexual assault. Any institution that houses, educates, or cares for children can potentially be the location where sexual abuse occurs, including:
Military Schools. Parents send their children to military schools expecting military discipline and strict supervision. A military school is the last place a parent may expect sexual abuse to occur. Unfortunately, the reality is that numerous military schools have failed to protect their students from sexual assault and violent physical hazing.
Private Schools. Private schools and boarding schools produce some of the most well-educated students from successful families. No parent would expect that these institutions fail to supervise faculty or immediately terminate adults who sexually abuse students. But a private school often cares more about its own reputation and prestige than the students it educates.
- Daycare Centers and In-Home Daycare. Children at daycare are often the most vulnerable due to their age and inability to verbalize what is happening while they are there. But daycare centers often fail to properly screen and supervise the adults working at the institution.
Public Schools. At a public school most parents have the expectation that the school should be an open book with respect to what is happening at the school. Those same parents often find the opposite. Known perpetrators of sexual harassment and assault may even be walking the halls of the school, and the school will not warn the parents.
- Youth Sports Teams and Athletic Programs. Coaches have a special relationship with their athletes. A strong bond is formed as the coach and athlete spend long periods of time together. This relationship can be even more strong when the athlete is a child and experiencing his or her first major life accomplishment. Consequently, an adult abuser can often take advantage of this special relationship.
- Clergy and Religious Institutions. Children can be particularly vulnerable to clergy, priests, and other adults in religious institutions. Parents place enormous trust in their religious leaders. A parent may also fear challenging the priest or institution, particularly when other parishioners rally around the perpetrator rather than the victim.
Injuries at School Are Far Too Common
When you send your child off to school, church, camp, or practice, it is with the expectation that the adults in charge will keep him or her safe. If your child is injured while in the care of an institution, you may have a hard time getting answers about the incident. Was your child attacked or physically assaulted by an individual? Did her coach push her too hard at practice or in a game? Did his coach fail to follow proper protocol after a concussion, sending him back into the game? Whatever the circumstances surrounding the injury, the school, church, athletic program, or daycare center is likely to be at least partially to blame. You may have been told by the school, police, or even another lawyer that there is nothing you can do, but you owe it to yourself and your child to talk to DRZ Law about your options. We have experience holding schools and other organizations accountable when children are harmed.
Unfortunately, there are dozens of ways for children to get hurt at school. Some of these injuries are caused by a child’s carelessness or disregard for rules—running down the hall, climbing on a desk, disobeying a coach’s instructions—but all too often, serious injuries happen because supervisors have failed in their duty to keep children safe. Some common causes of injuries in public and private schools, daycare centers, military schools, churches, and universities include:
- Suicide. Students who are bullied by peers, sexually assaulted by adults or other students, or victimized in ritualistic hazing incidents by athletic teams or social organizations can suffer deep psychological trauma that can affect their ability to function now and in the future. When students are driven to suicide because of bullying or abuse that occurred at school, church, or on an athletic team, those institutions should be held liable for not protecting the children under their supervision.
Violent Attacks. Every parent has to think about the possibility that their child could be the victim of a violent attack at school or church. If your child’s school or church failed to take measures to safeguard the children in their care and they are injured or killed in an attack, the institution or its employees may be held accountable.
- Violent Bullying and Hazing. Bullying may start through verbal taunts and insults, but it can also quickly devolve into physical bullying. A bully or group of bullies may begin physically attacking the victim to further injure and intimidate him or her. In many institutional settings the victim can never escape from the bullies, and the physical punishment continues to escalate and results in head and brain injuries and broken bones.
Children also become the victims of physical and sexual assault from peers on athletic teams, fraternities, and other organizations. Teammate-on-teammate assaults occur in all types of sports. Fraternities all over the country force their pledges to undergo physical pain and humiliation. Hazing is just another form of violent bullying. The only difference is that the perpetrators try to convince the victims to willfully submit to the punishment. But the physical attacks often result is severe physical injuries and even death. Perpetrators also sexually assault teammates or new members as part of a peverse initiation process.
How We Pursue Institutions When Your Child Is Harmed
You may have been told that there is no way to sue a school or other institution when they fail in their duty to protect children. While it is true that some governmental organizations—such as public schools and universities—have some degree of legal immunity, our attorneys have the resources necessary to hold them accountable. When employees or other students in military schools, public schools, private schools, churches, or youth athletic programs abuse your child, the institution itself may be brought to justice with one or more of the following charges:
- Title IX violations
- Failure to supervise
- Infliction of emotional distress
- Negligent hiring
- Deprivation of Constitutional rights to equal protection under the law
- Violation of state civil and human rights laws
If the individual who abused your child has been charged, why pursue charges against the institution? It may be the only way to get your child the support and treatment he or she will need to heal from the damage that has been done. When you call us, we will take it from there.
Cases We Have Successfully Handled
Unfortunately, there seem to be as many ways to be abused in schools and camps as there are students and staff. Some of the types of cases we have handled include the following:
- Sexual assault and abuse. Children in school aren’t immune from sexual assault, though we wish they were. In daycare centers, public schools, elite boarding schools, military academies, locker rooms, churches, buses, playgrounds, and summer camps, children can be sexually assaulted by other children, teenage leaders, teachers, aides, coaches, priests, and others. The emotional distress of a child who’s been assaulted shouldn’t go unanswered.
- Violent Bullying. Relentless bullying can push any child to the brink of suicide—and it certainly isn’t harmless when it rises to the level of broken bones and branding. These situations can escalate quickly and end very badly. If your child is being bullied at school because of his race, disability, sexual identity or orientation, or—as is often the case—just because, it needs to be addressed immediately.
- Hazing. When the initiation process for joining an athletic team, military school, fraternity, sorority, or other youth organization requires the new member to participate in humiliating and dangerous activities, he or she may be experiencing hazing. If your child ends up harmed—either physically or emotionally—not only should the perpetrators be held accountable, but the adult leaders and the institution should also be made to pay.
Parents who come to us after their child has had one of these traumatic experiences are often hesitant to take legal action. They don’t see themselves as litigious people and often feel like they have failed their child. When they allow us to take on the liable parties, however, we can help them make sure this doesn’t happen to another child.
Why We Do This
Taking on institutions who harbor abusers is a legal specialty. Both public and private schools will employ a number of tactics to hide information about what happened and the background of the abuser. A general personal injury lawyer who is not familiar with this area of the law will not have the resources DRZ Law has to fight back. We have dedicated our practice to empowering victims of abuse so that they can get the treatment they need to heal and to help parents change the system so it doesn’t happen again. Call us for a free consultation to discuss your case.