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CA Schools Liable for Sexually Abusive Teachers

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on March 15, 2012 6:57 AM

School sex abuse lawsuits just got a whole lot easier to file in California. The state's highest court has ruled that parents and students can sue school districts for negligently hiring, retaining and supervising abusive employees.

The ruling involves the 2007 molestation of a 15-year-old boy by a female guidance counselor at Golden Valley High School in Santa Clarita. The school district argued that its administrators could not be held responsible for the woman's actions as they were outside the scope of employment. The California Supreme Court unanimously disagreed.

The court ruled that school sex abuse lawsuits are permitted when administrators knew, or should have known, about an employee's abusive propensities, yet still hired, retained or inadequately supervised the employee. Administrators must take reasonable measures to protect students from foreseeable injuries -- even those inflicted at the hands of third parties, the court held.

This is an important ruling for a state that has seen a number of sexual abuse scandals in recent months. The Los Angeles Unified School District is currently facing dozens of similar lawsuits, according to the Associated Press. District administrators have been accused of allowing teachers to remain in the classroom despite receiving complaints.

The ruling also highlights the theories underpinning school sex abuse lawsuits across the country. Most of these suits involve accusations of negligent hiring, retention and supervision. As with most employers, school districts are generally expected to exercise reasonable care when handling employees. This often includes a responsibility to not knowingly employ an individual who will be exposed to his preferred victims as a result of his employment.

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