Schools are designed to be a safe place for learning and growth. But both can be severely hindered when a student is sexually abused. Unfortunately, sexual abuse at school is far more prevalent than anyone would like to believe across all grades and education systems, from preschool through college.
If you or your child has experienced sexual abuse at school, it is important to know your rights and options. A Portland sexual abuse at school attorney can be an invaluable resource. At D’Amore Law Group, we will listen to the facts of your case, thoroughly investigate, and help you seek meaningful justice and compensation for what you or your child have been through. Contact us today.
Prevalence of Sexual Abuse at School
According to the most recently released data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, there were 13,114 incidents of sexual violence in K–12 schools in the 2017 – 2018 recording period compared with 9,649 in 2015 – 2016. This represents a 43 percent increase in incidents which include rape or attempted rape and sexual assault.
Part of the reason for the increase could be attributed to the 2017 #MeToo movement, which inspired victims to report their abusers. Still, it is likely that the true number of sexual abuse incidents is being underreported. Reporting school sexual abuse is not only important as a way to achieve justice, but it can also prevent others from suffering the same abuse.
Types of Sexual Abuse in Portland Schools
Any sexual misconduct that takes place on school grounds may be considered sexual abuse. Abuse may be perpetrated by a student, teacher, support staff, or any other employee of the school.
- Sexual assault and battery. Abuse is often used interchangeably with assault and battery. Any unwanted physical contact may be considered assault and battery and there are varying degrees that can result in severe civil and criminal consequences.
- Sexual harassment. Sexual harassment can take many forms, but one of the most common in the school setting is submission to unwanted sexual contact as a condition of employment or academic standing. There are both federal and state laws against sexual harassment.
- Sexual intimidation. A threat, whether implied or actual, to commit a sexual act is sexual intimidation. Students and faculty should never have to fear being on campus.
- Sexual exploitation. Using intimate information to take advantage of someone may constitute sexual exploitation and is never appropriate whether the victim is a student or staff member.
It is important to note that anyone under the age of 18 in Oregon cannot legally consent to sexual interaction. If you feel like you or your child have had a questionable interaction with a student or staff member, a sexual abuse at school attorney in Portland can help you determine whether you have a valid case and how to proceed.
Who Perpetrates School Sexual Abuse?
The most common situation for school sexual abuse involves adults in a position of authority abusing their power over vulnerable students. This can include:
- Adjunct faculty,
- Support staff,
- Janitors, and
- Bus drivers.
Sexual abuse can also be perpetrated by other students. In all cases, it is important to inform the school and local law enforcement, in addition to reaching out to a sexual abuse at school lawyer in Portland. Students should never have to fear going to school for any reason.
Portland-Specific Policy for Student-Teacher Interaction
In 2019, the Portland Public School Board adopted strict regulations regarding interactions between students and school staff members in response to gaps that were observed during an investigation.
Portland public school staff are now required to complete annual training provided by the district on sexual conduct prevention in order to provide guidance and establish appropriate professional boundaries for student/staff interactions. Here are a handful of examples of inappropriate behavior outlined by the policy:
- Any type of conduct that would be considered sexual harassment under the school district’s non-discrimination/anti-harassment policy;
- Engaging in a romantic or sexual relationship with a student;
- Dating, flirting with, or propositioning a student;
- Showing pornography to a student;
- Discussing, writing, texting, transmitting, and/or displaying material to students about sexual topics unrelated to the curriculum;
- Banter, allusions, jokes, or innuendos of a sexual nature with students;
- Patting buttocks or touching other intimate parts of a student;
- Permitting students to engage in behaviors with an adult that cross appropriate physical boundaries, e.g., allowing students to give shoulder massages to the adult or allowing students to sit on an adult’s lap;
- Singling out a particular student or students for favoritism, special privileges, or exchanging of gifts beyond the employee-student relationship; and
- Disclosing intimate or sexual matters to a student unless necessary to serve a legitimate educational purpose.
The regulations also cover taking students home, one-to-one tutoring, using terms of endearment, known alcohol or drug use, and much more. You can read the full list of prohibited interactions here. This only applies to the Portland public school district and does not include private schools or universities.
Who Is Liable for Sexual Abuse at School?
The person who committed the abuse should certainly be held liable for what they have done, but in some cases, the school or school district may also be liable. Teachers and staff members are considered “mandatory reporters,” which means they are required by law to report any suspicion of inappropriate behavior. Failure to do so is a failure to fulfill their duty to keep students safe.
Likewise, schools are also responsible for having adequate hiring processes to ensure they are not hiring a person unfit to be around students. Failure to adhere to administrative protocol during hiring could also justify liability for school sexual abuse.
Contact a Portland Sexual Abuse at School Lawyer
At D’Amore Law Group, we understand the emotional, physical, and psychological hardships that come in the aftermath of sexual abuse. Because we have extensive experience representing victims of sexual abuse, the sensitive nature of what you have been through is not lost on us. We are here to provide compassionate and zealous representation in pursuit of the justice and compensation you deserve. Contact us to schedule your free case consultation.