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Peer to Peer Sexual Harassment and School Liability

For years schools have been held to stand “in loco parentis” meaning that they stand in the stead of parents while the children are at school. Unfortunately, bullying in the form of sexual harassment, has become a widespread problem at primary and secondary schools and colleges. There are cases throughout the nation where students have been harassed to such a severe degree that they withdraw from school, dropout, or even commit suicide.  Few states have enacted any laws that protect victims of bullying by sexual harassment. The White Plains sexual harassment lawyers at Lynch Schwab PLLC have substantial experience in handling these cases to ensure that you and your children are not left without a remedy. 

Theories Regarding School Liability 

Firstly, It is important to understand what duties schools have with respect to bullying and sexual harassment. There are a variety of theories that may hold a school liable for the activities of other students. Perhaps one of the most common theories is called negligent supervision. This theory argues that the school has a duty to supervise students to ensure a safe environment. This duty can be breached by a failure to warn, intervene, or otherwise take action to protect the victimized student. If the sexual harassment is ongoing, a White Plains sexual harassment lawyer can help you work with the school and obtain protection orders against the offenders.

Another common legal theory is the intentional infliction of emotional distress. This theory argues that the schools actions in addressing the sexual harassment caused emotional distress. To prove the case, the victim must show that the school district engaged in extreme and outrageous conduct. In bullying cases, this often involves a failure to act on complaints. Next, the victim must show the disregard of a substantial probability of causing, severe emotional distress. In this context, the school’s actions in failing to discipline or remove the offender, or to take reasonable efforts to protect the sexual harassment victim can meet this element.  There must also be a causal link between the conduct and the injury; and severe emotional distress. In many sexual harassment cases, the causal link and damages are apparent.

Your sexual harassment lawyer can also review the school’s policies and guidelines to determine whether the school negligently failed to comply with those policies.  One of the most recent developments in school law is whether these guidelines provide a basis to impose liability when those policies are not followed and injury results.

The most common theory argues a Title IX violation. Generally, a school district is required to intervene only when there is actual or constructive knowledge of the sexual harassment. Where a student decides not to seek assistance with the school, there is no affirmative obligation to discover sexual harassment. Generally, a school district is liable where the school acted with “deliberate indifference.” The test is whether the school addressed or attempted to prevent the bullying and individual episodes of peer-on-peer harassment. 

There are a variety of claims that your White Plains sexual harassment lawyer can assert if you, or your children, have been a victim of bullying and sexual harassment at their school.  Do not let the school victimize you or your children; the law is there to protect victims of sexual harassment, and our attorneys at Lynch Schwab, PLLC will fight for your rights. 

Posted on July 22, 2014 in For Our Clients, Personal Injury