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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

    One
    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

    The
    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. 

    Unfortunately,
    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

    In
    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.

    The
    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
    occurs.

    State
    of Florida is not Addressing the Issue

    Not
    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.

    Many
    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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