With sexual assaults occurring with disturbing frequency, parents across North Carolina are sounding the alarm: some schools provide sexual predators an ideal way to perpetrate their crimes. Are your child’s teacher, principal, staff, and school board doing enough to protect your child?
Sexual Assaults on the Rise
It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 25% of all girls and 17% of all boys will be subjected to sexual assault before their 18th birthday. Some of the sexual assaults take place in the very schools we consider to be safe havens. In fact, according to a 2016 Washington Post article, sexual assaults are not limited to colleges but now are taking place in K-12 schools, as in the case of a 14-year-old Alabama girl whose eighth-grade classmate raped her in a bathroom stall.
Think it’s not happening here in North Carolina? Think again.
Last June, a former Wilmington high school teacher pled guilty to 59 charges of sex offenses against students. As he faced prison time, he revealed that the school district had continued to allow him to teach even after receiving complaints about his conduct. Similarly, an elementary school in Durham failed to follow safety regulations and follow up on complaints of suspicious behavior, leading to the rape of a minor male child by his fourth-grade assistant teacher.
Copeley Johnson and Groninger represented the victim in that case and others like it. Unfortunately, even though more and more schools are being held accountable for their lack of oversight, the disturbing pattern of negligent school systems ignoring safety guidelines continues to occur in North Carolina.
The School’s Role
When a child is sexually assaulted at school or by a school employee, the perpetrator is not the only one at fault. Schools have a responsibility to run a thorough background check on every prospective employee, provide proper safety training, and carefully investigate complaints about possible danger or inappropriate staff behavior. They also have an affirmative responsibility to safeguard their students and keep them far from any risk of sexual assault by staff, visitors, and even other students. Unfortunately, not all of them do.
In fact, some schools go a step further than negligence and deliberately conceal evidence of sexual assault. Sometimes this intentional behavior is motivated by a drive to protect the school’s reputation. Other times, especially in cases of federal funding triggering discrimination claims under Title IX, they simply hope to avoid an investigation from the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. Principals, school boards, teachers, staff, and aids can be involved in the intentional concealment of suspicious activity.
Has Your Child Been Assaulted?
Children don’t always tell their parents if they’re being sexually assaulted. Sometimes they fail to come forward until they’re adults and responding to news about their abuser being arrested for assaulting other children. Below is a list of potential signs that your son or daughter is being abused while at school or by a school employee:
- Unusual and inexplicable behavior changes, such as declining school performance or increased emotionality
- Fear of going to school or being with a specific teacher or classmate
- Sexual knowledge that is age-inappropriate
- Secretive behavior
If your child has special needs, play close attention. Statistics from the VERA Institute of Justice suggest that special needs children are three times more likely than other children to be sexually assaulted at school, both by school employees and other students. Predators perceive them to be easier targets, often because they lack the vocabulary or ability to report the abuse.
If your child tells you about the sexual assault, stay calm and provide support. Communicate love, gratitude for the open communication, and confirmation that the child did nothing wrong. Then, take all necessary steps to protect your child and to hold the abusers responsible.
Questions to Ask Your Child’s School
- Are adults allowed to be alone with children out of view?
- What are the circumstances in which children are allowed to be alone with adults before and after school?
- Are adults permitted to text with children privately?
- What training does the school system conduct in the prevention of sexual assault?
- What steps does the school system have in place for the reporting of suspicious conduct?
- Are children and adults trained to look out for special flattery or grooming behavior by teachers and other adults?
Contact a North Carolina School Sexual Assault Attorney
Sexual assault leaves lasting scars on children and may permanently cause mental, physical, and emotional harm. No amount of money can undo the damage caused by school sexual assault. However, one way to move toward healing is to hold schools financially accountable so that they take seriously their duty to prevent children from being sexually abused at school.
North Carolina parents should not tolerate schools who turn a blind eye to sexual assault. If your child was assaulted at school, an experienced North Carolina sexual assault attorney can help you file a claim against both the perpetrator and the institution that ignored or implicitly condoned the criminal behavior.
The sexual abuse lawyers at Copeley Johnson & Groninger PLLC have helped many young North Carolina victims and their families get justice. We will fight to see that he or she gets the financial resources needed to access medical and psychological treatment. To schedule a consultation, contact Copeley Johnson & Groninger PLLC today or call 919-646-4220.