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Student Molestation Prevention: Serving Justice to Predators

Students and teachers are oftentimes sharing a closeness that happens when both parties are spending time together all day throughout the week. There’s also situations in which students spend more time with their teachers than they spend with their own parents. However, some teachers have a hard time walking the line in terms of being a friend and an authority figure. This problem is beginning to grow significantly in Texas, with the numbers of inappropriate relationships becoming more common. According to a federal report by the U.S. Departments of Education, United States schools fail to prevent student molestation by school personnel through cover-ups, lack of training, little guidance and incomplete teacher background checks. The U.S. Government Accountability Office also noted that the nation’s K – 12 schools don’t have a systemic approach system in place when it comes to reporting and preventing student molestation, despite there’s a reported 9.6 percent of students who are molested by bus drivers, principals, coaches, teachers, or other personnel in their K-12 career (in their 2004 report). Although many school districts and states are attempting to step in the right direction, their current efforts have fallen behind.

The Cycle of Student Molestation

Since many education districts can’t pull up this important employee information, the teachers who have been accused of student molestation in other school districts are unwittingly hired. Several districts have minimal training on how to detect the signs of predatory behavior, which explains how many predators can groom students for abuse and give them inappropriate attention. It was also noted that even when districts dismiss teachers for potential student molestation, the districts don’t alert future employers or attempt to revoke the teacher’s credentials.

In addition to this, a child cannot give consent when they are dealing with their teacher. Even in situations where students claim that they are interested and open to the advances, there is no condoning of this behavior on account of the educator. Students may assume they are in love with their educator, but they oftentimes find out that they were only one in a line of others who were molested. This situation can lead to suicide, in which deaths have been seen from both educators and students.

Social Media & Student Molestation

Doug Phillips of the Texas Education Agency has noticed many similarities in these cases regarding inappropriate behavior between students and teachers. As there have been rising numbers of inappropriate relationships being investigated for unprofessional behavior (222 at the moment), Doug believes that this is likely due to the better reporting on social media. Relationships are caught frequently due to the fact that every move we make leaves some sort of digital trail. For example: the state of Texas has seen at least an 80% rise in cases since 2008, which is roughly around the time when cellphones became more commonplace for students and teachers. Whether it be through texting, Snapchat or Facebook, it has been incredibly easy to track inappropriate behavior. The TEA relies on several different entities in order to retrieve the information they desire, yet some individuals are not as helpful as they should be. If a parent refuses to allow investigators access to a phone, law enforcement may ignore cooperation and the schools may pretend the incidents didn’t happen. Computers or phones may happen to fail or break before the information is collected, which prevents incriminating evidence from being collected.

“Limited” Guidance

Some states have planned to be more progressive when it comes to student molestation accusations and revoking teacher credentials. They are strongly encouraged to do so, but the process of educating staff on student molestation is still in conversation with legislators to make this information mandatory. Even with the few kinks that need to be worked out, districts have very ambitious ideas for the future when it comes to student molestation training.

However, the most unsettling student molestation prevention issue is that most districts and states have only received “limited” guidance regarding the Department of Education’s federal Title IX law. This law is mainly known for prohibiting discrimination in an educational program that is based on sex, but the law also requires procedures in schools that protect children from sexual harassment by school faculty members. Sadly, student molestation remains obscured because the federal government cannot track incidences of sexual abuse from educators – even with collected information on student molestation.

This same report that discovered this unsettling information found considerable fault with child protection agencies and federal educations in surveys conducted via school visits, interviews, state education departments, and law enforcement agencies in Washington, Virginia, Massachusetts, and Georgia. This report also discovered that no single agency is leading the effort to prevent student molestation and the coordination within federal agencies to disseminate information and balance resources to assist local and state effort is considerably limited.

Closing Easy Escapes for Predators

Texas Board Certified Attorney and Managing Partner Ric Garcia of Garica & Ochoa is a strong advocate of serving justice to student molesters. For example, he recently sued San Antonio’s Independent School District for a cool $4.5 million dollars and has multiple cases against the Donna and Harlingen School District pending as well. The main charge Garcia pursued was against a principal who was taking advantage of a third grader for many years. Garcia’s take on student molestation is very much the same as Doug Phillips’ in that they want to spread awareness of what is happening in these school districts. Garcia’s firm is driven to prove that not only inappropriate behavior was going on, but all parties involved did nothing to prevent or stop it.

For example: During a case study, it found that an unnamed district gave an elementary school teacher a favorable recommendation after he was disciplined for downloading adult content and disciplined (once again) after a parent had to complain in regards to the excessive attention he was giving his daughter in the second grade. Another school district performed a check on his background and they found no evidence for concern, which led to the teacher getting hired at a different district. Once it was suspected that he was in fact molesting a student, the situation was investigated by the principal and the situation was written off as “poor judgment” on behalf of the teacher. It wasn’t until the same teacher had been convicted of aggravated criminal sexual abuse of two students at his first school and eight students at the second school he worked at. The failure to report his abuse to law enforcement led to misdemeanor pleas that were put together by the district superintendent, the district director of human resources, and the school principal.

Although districts are currently required by law to notify the state Commission on Teacher Credentialing within a thirty day period in the event of job dismissal regarding misconduct or an investigation of misconduct, many districts do not follow through on the investigation (which was the case in the situation above). Another district in particular had 144 reported cases that took place a year after allegations and 31 more cases that had taken place three years later. Thankfully, the reporting procedures have improved in the district and teachers have had their credentials revoked in the event of misconduct. Some districts have even taken the initiative to make it easier to dismiss abusive teachers, with some gathering signatures for a ballot measure that forbids school districts from agreeing to gag orders and their future of their career resting in the hands of a vote from the school board. However, school boards encourage students who have been molested by staff to contact the police immediately.

Considering the information above, serving justice to your molester may be the only closure one can seek and receive to leave painful, traumatic memories in the past. Thankfully, attorneys at GOM Law are here to provide you with the professional assistance and knowledge you need to overcome such obstacles. Contact us today at 956-290-8500 for a free consultation and to learn more about your rights.

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