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Law Updates

Some States Stop Blaming the Student for Sexual Abuse

child abuse

Some states stop blaming the student for
sexual abuse

of the biggest problems plaguing Florida schools is that many school districts
continue to lay the blame for sexual abuse on the victims when they are sued.
While this continues to be a problem in other states as well, courts in eight
states so far have barred legal defenses from attempting to put the blame for
sexual abuse entirely or even partly on victims.

Blaming Victims for Their Sexual Abuse

states that no longer allow school districts to legally defend themselves
against lawsuits brought on by students who are sexual assault victims by
trying to blame the victims include California, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Oregon,
Minnesota, Washington, South Carolina and Utah. Courts in these states reasoned
that children aren’t mature enough to consent to sexual behavior, which means
that they cannot be blamed if they are victimized. 

Florida courts have yet to rule on this topic. Even more unfortunate is that
because of this lack of a ruling, school districts in St. Lucie, Broward,
Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties have all attempted to lay complete or
partial blame on students who were sexually abused at school, including some
students who are as young as six.

St. Lucie County School District Actions

a recent case handled by The Law Office of Gloria Seidule, the St. Lucie County
School District tried to blame multiple 14-year-old girls of consenting to
sexual harassment and abuse by their 9th grade algebra teacher who
was later convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.  The school district also tried to minimize
the damages to the girl by arguing her relationship with the teacher was no
different than a relationship with a 14-year-old boy.  These types of defenses used by the St Lucie
County School District are reprehensible and should not be allowed in the
courtroom. It is incredible that a school district that is charged with the
duty to care for children while in its custody would even consider, or allow
its attorney to consider, raising consent as a defense.

Palm Beach County School District’s behavior in the matter is particularly
questionable as they attempted to claim that four victims, who were molested as
third graders by a teacher back in 2005, were old enough to have known better.
Two of the victims, who are now adults, shared that they felt ashamed as a
result of this victim blaming and that school districts that attempted to blame
the victims were only deterring others from coming forward if sexual abuse

of Florida is not Addressing the Issue

only has the state of Florida neglected to address this matter, they have
encouraged this type of legal defense under a defense known as comparative
negligence. Comparative negligence allows the responsibility between the
victim and the party that is being accused of negligence to be split between
the two. This law can be used against victims as young as six years old,
although it doesn’t specify whether it can be allowed in sexual abuse cases.

lawyers argue that this defense should not be a viable one for school districts
since the law states that children under 16 can’t consent. However, the
comparative negligence defense is rarely heard in court because those lawsuits
are generally settled or dismissed before they make it to trial.

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