Your child’s safety should be of highest priority to the school system you trust to provide him or her with quality education and guidance. Unfortunately, abuse and the school system do not always remain separate. At The Cifarelli Law Firm, LLP, in Los Angeles, California, we provide representation in both English and Spanish to victims of abuse throughout Southern California and across the United States.
Confront California Teacher Abuse
School administrators should be conducting thorough screenings and background checks of teachers, aids, coaches and other school personnel. They should also swiftly respond to instances of suspected abuse or inappropriate behavior. If there is a situation where a teacher is molesting students, or inappropriate harassment or behavior is taking place, we work to hold the guilty parties accountable in a court of law.
Victims of abuse are not always forthcoming with information regarding the abuse they have suffered. They may feel shame or feel at fault for what is happening to them. That is why it is important for school officials and personnel to be well trained in recognizing changes in behavior that could indicate a child is being physically or sexually abused. If they don’t take action they could face substantial civil liability.
When there have been institutional failings in the school system and your child has been physically or sexually abused by someone within the school, come to The Cifarelli Law Firm. Our experienced lawyers help victims of abuse through aggressive investigation and legal representation while remaining sensitive to confidentiality and discretion.
We know that these are delicate issues. That is why we work to bear the legal burden while you focus on your family.
In recent years, two school districts in Central California agreed to pay a total of nearly $17 million to settle a number of lawsuits against teachers accused of physically and verbally abusing special needs children under their care. Despite years of complaints submitted to the school districts by teachers’ aides, school psychologists and parents, the districts failed to act on the complaints and, as a result, the children suffered serious psychological injuries that will follow them for the rest of their lives.
According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), schools across the nation routinely fail to protect students from sexual, physical and verbal abuse from educators and staff, and fail to report such abuses despite laws requiring them to do so.
The GAO blames the egregious problem on such issues as:
- Inadequate guidance from the U.S. Department of Education
- School districts disregarding and covering up complaints
- District failure to perform complete background checks on school personnel
- Inadequate or no training of school personnel
- Failing to report suspected or witnessed abuse to law enforcement agencies
Many states require or “strongly encourage” those who suspect or witness abuse or neglect to report incidences to local law enforcement agents. Unfortunately, many submit reports to school principals, administrators or school district officials, but the information is not passed along to police or child protection agencies.
School System Child Abuse Client Testimonial
"When my daughter was molested at school, I didn’t know what to do or who to ask for help. The school made me feel like I was the bad one and they only wanted to protect themselves. I was scared and didn’t know what to do. Somehow I was blessed to find Tom Cifarelli. Tom and his team were very experienced and knew exactly what to say and do to make me and my daughter feel better, and feel safe. They made us feel like we were going to be ok. Throughout the lawsuit, Tom was always strong on our side, protecting us from everything and always re-assuring us along the way. It made me feel so happy to see how Tom protected my daughter and fought so hard for her. Tom got us an amazing result that has changed my family’s life forever.
I would always recommend Tom for anyone who needs legal help for their child.
With love," -Joanna G.
California School Sexual Abuse Laws
Currently, all school employees in California are required to report all incidences of suspected child abuse, but many do not know about the requirement. Additionally, many of them have received no training regarding identification of suspected abuse or neglect.
Earlier this year, talks began in the California legislature that may lead to mandatory training for all school employees. Lawmakers in California are attempting to create stronger laws that will help protect all students in the state. The new laws would take personnel training out of the hands of each school district and require annual proof of training from each teacher and staff member.
Will it be enough?
Some worry that even the newly proposed laws will not be enough to protect California students. While failure to report suspected abuse is a misdemeanor, the crime is seldom prosecuted and those responsible for reporting abuses often go unpunished.
Even more worrisome is that abusive teachers may be transferred from one school to the next without any sharing of information between the schools or the school districts. This is what happened to the special needs children in the recently settled lawsuits; abusive teachers were shuttled from school to school without any disclosure regarding prior complaints against them.