Understanding Your Rights as a Parent When Your Child Faces Sexual Assault at School by Another Student

What to Do If Your Child is Sexually Assaulted or Harassed By Another Child at School? Guidance for parents in handling incidents of sexual harassment and assault at school

When a parent sends their child to school, they expect their child to be safe from harm. They expect the school administration, teachers, and faculty to stand up for their children when they experience assault of any kind, especially sexual assault. As a parent, what can you do, and where can you turn if your child is the victim of sexual harassment or sexual assault from another student at school? What is reasonable to expect from the school, the parents of the other child or children involved, and the law? Where can you turn when the school fails your child and ignores the laws?

Sexual Assault or Harassment in Schools

Many have heard the stories of teachers who sexually assault minor students. However, not all sexual assaults in schools come from teachers. In some cases, sexual assault can be at the hands of another student. Cases of such events occurring in elementary schools through high schools have been reported. In recent months, children as young as 9 years old have been accused of sexually assaulting another student in their elementary school.

Realities of Student-On-Student Sexual Assault in Schools

In one recent case, a young girl in elementary school was sexually assaulted by several boys who were her age or slightly older. These boys made sexual comments to her and eventually, those comments became physical assaults on her body. One of the boys said something to his father. His father reported it to the school. The school lightly reprimanded the boys, kept them in the same classes, allowed general contact between them and the girl they assaulted, and did not say anything to the community or other parents of students in the school. The mother of the victim removed her from the school, and she has to deal with the fallout.

How Does the Law Protect Children from Sexual Harassment and Assault in School?

Sexual assault is illegal in any setting, and victims are protected by criminal laws. Additionally, victims have the right to seek damages through civil laws for sexual assault and harassment. Just like employers, schools must follow laws that protect students from any kind of unwanted sexual advances.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 protects students from sexual assault and sexual harassment in any schools receiving federal funding, including private and parochial schools that accept federal funding, grants, or scholarships. This includes most public schools and many private institutions that accept federal funding, grants, or scholarships.

As a result, a school must take precautions to prevent any type of sexual assault or harassment against a student. It must also investigate claims of sexual assault and harassment and take proper actions to prevent it from happening in the future. Some actions may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Involving police when needed
  • Expelling students who sexually assault or harass other students.
  • Taking disciplinary actions against students who sexually assault or harass other students.
  • Informing parents of any actions of sexual harassment or assault as it occurs in the school environment.
  • Monitoring the hallways and classrooms.
  • Providing education to students and faculty about sexual assault and their rights.

What Should You Do If Your Child Faces Sexual Harassment or Assault at School?

As a parent, if your child is sexually assaulted at school, your first instinct would be to do all you can to protect your child and help them heal. You want to help them in every way you can. Surprisingly, the best way to protect them and help them move on is to preserve every aspect of the assault that can be preserved (as long as you know about it immediately after it occurs).

If You Know of the Assault The Day It Occurs

If your child was sexually assaulted in school and you learn about it immediately following the school day, grab a change of clothes and take your child to the closest emergency room. Let the medical team take samples of hair, clothing, and other bodily fluids while conducting a thorough exam. All the while, make sure you let your child know they did nothing wrong and all you are doing is preserving their rights.

You do not need to call the authorities if your child refuses to move in that direction. However, it is best to call the authorities immediately to begin an investigation and hold their attacker and abuser accountable for their actions. No matter your choice to file a police report, make sure to contact a therapist to help your child process what happened to them and allow them the avenue to process these events and understand these events do not define them.

If You Do Not Know About the Assault for Days or Longer

Unfortunately, you may not find out about a sexual assault against your K-12-aged child until days (or longer) after it occurs, especially if it is something done by another minor child. Therefore, you must act accordingly. A this point, you may still choose to call the police to file a report. You may even still take your child to meet with a medical professional to ensure they did not receive any injuries or sexually transmitted diseases from the attack.

More importantly, these situations require specific care to ensure your child knows they are not at fault and did nothing wrong. You may seek a therapist to help your child process what occurred.

Finally, if the school did not do everything in its power to notify you of the attack and protect your child, you may seek legal help to hold the school accountable for these actions.

What steps can parents take to protect their children from sexual harassment and assault in schools?

Parents can take several proactive steps to safeguard their children from sexual harassment and assault in schools:

  1. Familiarize Yourself with Title IX: Understand Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which protects students from sexual harassment and assault in federally funded schools. Know your rights as a parent and the legal obligations of the school to address incidents of sexual misconduct.
  2. Document Everything: Keep detailed records of all communication with the school, including emails, letters, and meeting notes. Document any evidence related to the incident, such as witness statements or medical reports.
  3. Seek Legal Advice: If the school fails to take appropriate action or adequately address the situation, consider seeking legal advice from an attorney specializing in education law or civil rights. They can advise you on your options and help you navigate the legal process.

By taking these proactive measures, parents can effectively advocate for their children’s safety and ensure that incidents of sexual harassment and assault are addressed promptly and appropriately by the school administration.

Why Should You File a Civil Lawsuit Against the School?

Schools must be accountable for their refusal to act and keep children safe. While pressing charges may hold the attacker and their families accountable, it does not help your child move on from the situation. However, a civil lawsuit will help ensure expenses relating to these horrific acts are covered. Some ways a civil lawsuit can benefit you and hold the school accountable include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The damages can help pay for therapies that help your child process the assault and move on from a feeling of despair and helplessness.
  • The damages can help pay for costs associated with moving or changing schools.
  • The damages can help pay for related medical expenses, such as medical procedures and treatments.
  • The damages put a financial strain on the schools, forcing them to reconsider how they handle such actions should they occur again or even install preventative measures to prevent them from occurring again.

Advocating for Justice and Support for Victims of Sexual Assault in Schools

No child should ever feel unsafe in school, and no parent should feel helpless when their child faces sexual harassment or assault. It’s crucial to be informed about your rights under Title IX and to take proactive steps to address incidents of sexual misconduct. If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault or harassment in school, our experienced lawyers at the Derek Smith Law Group are here to help. Contact us at 800.807.2209 for a free consultation. We are committed to advocating for justice and supporting victims through this challenging time.