After Stamford High School administrators failed to report sexual abuse, students took action by endorsing a bill that would tighten mandatory reporting laws in the state.
Under state law, certain positions require reporting sexual abuse. This includes teachers, school administrators, and others in a position of authority. If a person in authority does not report abuse, that person is aiding in future abuse - a serious crime.
In early March, Connecticut students appeared before state legislators to encourage the passage of HB 6186, which would make the failure to report sexual abuse a felony crime. It is currently a misdemeanor. Part of the bill would also require additional training on spotting and preventing sexual abuse of students.
Sexual abuse prevention has become a focus of numerous authorities and advocates. Unfortunately, sexual abuse is still occurring in schools. The student support of the bill comes just as a Stamford High School teacher will be sentenced for inappropriate sexual conduct with a student.
Two administrators were charged with failing to report the sexual abuse. According to a police investigation, two school administrators heard of the relationship between the teacher and student months before it became public, but did not report the relationship. The Stamford School Board is currently facing a lawsuit for their action (or lack thereof) in preventing the abuse from occurring.
The bill is not without its critics, however. The Connecticut Education Association is fighting the bill. Currently, administrators and teachers must report sexual abuse if they have "cause to suspect or believe an inappropriate relationship" is taking place between a student and teacher. The bill would change the language to require reporting if there is a "suspicion" such a relationship exists.
The committee has not yet voted on the bill but is expected to do so soon.
Legal options for sexual abuse victims
Whatever the result of the bill, student sexual abuse victims do have legal options to help protect themselves and fellow students. Under the law, school administrators must report inappropriate relationships, and of course teachers cannot legally have sexual contact with a student. Nor is there such thing as "consent" when it comes to a teacher engaging in sexual conduct with a student.
Sexual abuse is incredibly harmful. Victims can take years to move past an episode of sexual abuse. Often, reporting sexual abuse is the hardest part. Student victims may feel responsible or guilty for the relationship, even though the conduct is entirely the teacher's fault. School administrators may also be reluctant to conduct investigations, since revealing such conduct brings unwanted attention to the school.
But speaking out and reporting abuse are necessary; silence enables sexual abuse. That means school administrations must be held accountable for failing to act when confronted with suspicions of inappropriate conduct by a teacher towards a student.
If you or your child has experienced sexual abuse, there is help. At Tremont Sheldon Robinson Mahoney P.C., our attorneys have years of experience helping students recover from these traumatic events by holding teachers and administrators accountable. Victims can get help paying for treatment and prevent future sexual abuse from occurring through a civil lawsuit. Contact our office to discuss your legal options.
Keywords: Sexual abuse, student rights, mandatory reporting, Stamford, Connecticut, sexual abuse prevention.