Dirty Secrets: Sexual Assault in California’s Schools

Q: Who is responsible for personal injury suffered from a sexual assault in school?

We’ve heard the “by-gone days” stories of parents and grandparents reflecting on their school years and how hard they had it– –having to walk miles back-and-forth to school without shoes. But in reality, school kids today have it so much harder. They live with burdens we never knew and never could’ve imagined. Stresses far beyond the very real pressure to be the best in everything academic, athletic, and extracurricular… or to have the best things… or to pass muster under the ever-present eye of social media.  Today’s school kids face horrors from the outside like Sandy Hook. But they also face horrors from within– the very real problem of sexual assault at school.

Not even the best janitor can sweep the dirty secret reality of rampant sexual assault under the rug – – though school districts certainly try.

Sexual assault is a problem not only at the collegiate or high school level, but one that disturbingly exists at all levels of grades K-12. Federal regulations require colleges to track and report sexual assaults, but K-12 programs don’t have a similar mandate.

Sexual assault covers a wide range of non-consensual sexual contact including rape or attempted rape, child molestation, incest, inappropriate touching, voyeurism, exhibitionism, and sexual harassment. Sexual assault victims—boys as well as girls– may be attacked by strangers, or may suffer and as the hands of acquaintances, family members, friends, teachers and other trusted adults or caregivers, and when older, even their intimate partners.

Regardless of whether the attacker is criminally charged, the victim has civil remedies and may be entitled to compensation for injuries including current medical treatments, future treatment, or rehabilitation and counseling, emotional pain and suffering. It is important to note that if a third-party – – such as the victim’s school–failed to provide adequate security, and that negligence caused or contributed to the sexual assault, the third-party may often be sued as well.

With no national requirements for tracking and responding to sexual assaults, states are left with wide discretion in characterizing acts as a sexual assault or something more minor. This, coupled with the tendency for under-reporting for other reasons, means the number of actual sexual assaults in schools is likely far greater than the number provided in available data.

Although the state of California requires public schools to report all student offenses of sexual assault or sexual battery even if it didn’t result in suspension or expulsion of the accused, the state has defined the reportable offenses broadly to include:

  • “any forcible oral, anal or vaginal penetration
  • lewd behavior with someone 15 or younger
  • unwanted intimate touching through or under clothes for arousal or gratification.”

Between the fall of 2011 and the spring of 2015, there were 4,630 student offenses reported involving sexual assault or sexual battery in California. Clearly, the schools are failing the students.

If you or your child have been the victim of a sexual assault or battery, as a student or otherwise, the personal injury attorneys at J&Y Law Firm can help you obtain the compensation to which you are entitled. It’s not uncommon for sexual assault victims to suffer long-standing physical and emotional harm and to need psychological counseling and other supports to work toward recovery. Don’t bear the financial, emotional, and physical burdens alone.

Call us today at 888-806-6722 for a free evaluation of your case. From our headquarters in Los Angeles and 21 offices throughout Northern and Southern California, experienced and caring legal help is always nearby.