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Teachers Have No Pass to Abuse Students

By Connecticut Personal Injury Attorney on February 14, 2018

The topic of sexual harassment couldn’t be timelier. The high-profile cases in Hollywood of powerful people using their positions to solicit sexual favors has brought an end to a number of careers: those of Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Roger Ailes, and Kevin Spacey, to name a few.

It might be tempting to assume that this epidemic of harassment only affects multimillion-dollar industries. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Sexual harassment can happen to anyone, no matter the age, position, gender, or income.

It can—and does—also happen in schools.

Children Are Abused in School at an Alarming Rate.

In April 2017, a drama teacher at a high school in New Haven was charged with felony sexual assault for allegedly having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old male student. The accused teacher, Jennifer Frechette, 44, was discovered with the victim in a makeshift bed located inside a classroom. People who know Frechette were shocked and claimed they never would have expected such behavior from her.

Just last summer, a teacher at Central High School in Bridgeport was charged with second-degree sexual assault for engaging in a sexual relationship with an 18-year-old special needs student. The teacher, Laura Ramos, 31, was arrested after a student alerted authorities that she was having sexual intercourse with another student. Ramos then admitted to having a relationship with the student since December 2016.

Don’t be fooled into thinking these were isolated incidents. In a statewide look at teacher sexual abuse in Connecticut, the New Haven Register and WTNH found at least 58 separate occasions of teachers, teacher’s aides, school workers, or athletic coaches being charged with sexual crimes at kindergarten through 12th-grade schools from June 2005 to February 2016. In total, at least six teachers were arrested in Connecticut every year for sexual misconduct. In the majority of these cases, the accused teacher was not tried for the crime he or she was originally accused of. Instead, most defendants pled guilty to lesser charges.

What to Look for with Sexual Harassment.

Sexual harassment comprises a wide range of unacceptable behaviors, including unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, sexually explicit or suggestive comments, or unwanted touching. Basically, any situation where there is a disparity of power between two people and that disparity is leveraged for sexual favors. When the victim is a minor, all sexual contact with adults is non-consensual. There are no exceptions.

The following is a list of behaviors that constitute sexual assault or harassment:

  • Sexual intercourse
  • Inappropriate contact, such as kissing, petting, massaging, groping, or stroking
  • Displaying pornographic images to a minor
  • Exposing one’s genitals to a minor
  • Viewing a minor’s genitals
  • Making inappropriate or suggestive comments of a sexual nature to a minor
  • Non-verbal communication, such as notes, text messages, gestures, or facial expressions, that are sexually suggestive

Teachers and School Districts Have to Pay.

In the aftermath of a sexual assault, parents are often left with many tough questions, including who to blame. Usually, there will be criminal charges levied, but as noted above, the guilty parties are often able to secure lenient sentences. No matter the outcome in court, it will be of little solace to the victim and family, who will be dealing with the emotional trauma for many years afterwards.

Schools have a duty of care to all of the students in their charge. In particular, this means doing proper background checks of all hires, monitoring teachers, and quickly and decisively responding to allegations of improper behavior. A failure to do so constitutes negligence, and victims have a right to be fully and fairly compensated.

If you suspect that your child has been the victim of teacher sexual abuse, you need to take action immediately. After alerting authorities, seek out the help of an experienced attorney who can advise you on the legal options open to you. At Naizby Law, we’re one of few firms that handles civil claims against sexual abusers. For more information or to talk to us, please call (203) 245-8500.

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