What You Can Do When You Suspect That a School Employee is Sexually Harassing or Abusing Children
It is serious business to accuse anybody of molesting a child – and in the school setting where a bedrock assumption (which, unfortunately, is false) is that no school employee would ever hurt a child, that’s exactly what child predators count on. But if there is one thing that we know, it’s that children do indeed fall victim to child predators in school, and the overwhelming tendency is for schools to protect themselves rather than the children when these issues come up.
So what can you do if you suspect that a school employee is sexually harassing or abusing children? The only good answer to this question is: “That depends.” The first and most obvious thing to do is to go to someone in school administration – usually the principal of the school or, perhaps in a smaller school district, directly to the superintendent. But you may first want to determine what the reputation is of the school district for responding to parental complaints. Some are far better than others. If you have any doubt as to the willingness of the district to act, speaking with other parents first who may be able to add weight to your suspicions can be very helpful. There is strength in numbers and in detail. Chances are the more people who have suspicions, the more details they can add when an administration is approached.
Never underestimate the power of the political process. Jeff Stewart and Bill Seikaly of this firm have both been long-time members of school boards, and both can tell you that school boards are very sensitive to public and voter opinion.
If that doesn’t work, it is time to go to the local police. Some school districts have liaison officers who work full time with the schools. This may not be your best bet; many times these officers have close working relationships with schools and may not be as willing to go against the schools with which they work as might an independent investigator even in the same police department.
If your child has been the victim of physical or sexual abuse at school, we can help, and we hope that you will contact us. Please contact our well-practiced Michigan student protection attorneys at Seikaly, Stewart & Bennett for a no-obligation phone call or office appointment. Call 248-785-0102 or fill out our contact form to arrange your consultation.
Charol Shakeshaft and Audrey Cohan (1994), in their paper entitled “In loco parentis: Sexual Abuse of Students in Schools (What administrators should know)” reported that, of 225 sexual abuse cases by school personnel against students, not one time was the perpetrator reported to law enforcement authorities by the school officials in a position to do so.