Why Are Private School Students Less Protected?

Fewer Protections for Kids at Private Schools than Public Schools for Sexual Abuse

When we send our children off to school every day, we assume that the system will keep them safe. Unfortunately, recent reports of sexual exploitation and abuse, especially in the private school system, is enough to make us wonder if that trust is misplaced.

In May 2018, a teacher at The Montessori School of Raleigh (MSR), a private school serving students from preschool through 12th grade, was accused of having a sexual relationship with a ninth-grade student. The school and its headmistress were also accused of ignoring the allegations of abuse, which took place from August 2012 to June 2016. More recently, a former MSR substitute teacher was arrested in Phoenix for molesting a five-year-old child.

Although sexual misconduct between adults and students can occur in the public school system, a growing number of headlines are reporting incidents in private schools. Let’s take a closer look at why this is probably happening.

Private School Staff Don’t Have to Be Licensed

Unlike public school teachers, educators in the private school system generally don’t have to be licensed, so they are not overseen or regulated by licensing agencies that can impose discipline and alert other employers of potential problems. Private schools are also not required to run background checks on their staff, which increases the likelihood that someone with a record for sexual abuse can get a job and access to vulnerable children.

Private School Staff Not Subject to Public Records Law

Another major reason why sexual abuse in private schools is so easy to hide is that the teachers and other staff are not subject to public records laws. They are not overseen by public school boards with laws about open meetings. Allegations or instances of abuse can remain secret and not impede abusers from moving on to other schools.

Private Schools Have Systematic Advantages

Private schools don’t always have the same access restrictions and other safety controls seen in public schools. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Limiting access to school buildings during school hours
  • Closing the facility for all students during lunch hours

This comparative freedom to come and go unchallenged on private school grounds can create opportunities not only for unethical teachers and staff but also for sexual predators seeking to meet and groom vulnerable students.

Private Schools Are Trusted More

Some of these institutions are religious in scope (e.g., private Catholic schools) or related to charitable organizations, thereby fostering a belief that abuse simply couldn’t happen in such an intrinsically benevolent and moral place. Unfortunately, this implemented trust makes it easier for predators to abuse students, and when the victim speaks out, the school and even the community may refuse to believe that such a trusted teacher or selfless sports coach could do such a thing.

All Students Deserve Protection

Every school, whether public, private, or charter, has a duty to protect its students from harm. Teachers and staff who sexually abuse students violate the trust that parents and children place in them and, because too many schools either downplay the complaints or actively try to cover them up, survivors of private school sexual abuse suffer damage that they have to live with for the rest of their lives.

The Consequences of Private School Sexual Abuse

When a teacher takes advantage of a student, the emotional and psychological consequences persist long after graduation. They develop a distrust of anyone in authority, which can lead to problematic relationships with bosses and interrupt their career aspirations.

They can also isolate themselves and suffer from depression and anxiety. In fact, their feelings can affect practically every area of their life long after the abuser has moved on.

Contact a North Carolina Sexual Abuse Attorney

If your child has been sexually abused or harassed by a private school teacher or other trusted adult, the sexual abuse lawyers at Copeley Johnson & Groninger PLLC will help you get through the emotionally challenging process of holding the assailant and the school accountable. While compensation cannot erase what you child has endured, it can provide access to resources that can help them heal. To schedule a consultation, contact Copeley Johnson & Groninger PLLC today or call919-240-4054.

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