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The Reasons Why Sexual Abuse in California Public and Private Schools Goes Largely Unreported
The extent of the problem in America’s schools is impossible to quantify because no national database tracks instances of sexual abuse of students by employees in K-12 public or private schools.
But evidence, based on the pages of newspapers and online news sites across the country, suggests something close to an epidemic.
School administrators, teachers and staff in California are required by law to alert authorities to suspicions about sexual abuse of underage students.
But in school districts across Southern California, some educators are ignoring that duty, choosing to keep things quiet rather than “ruin lives” of co-workers and suffer the mark of bad publicity.
As a result, victims of sexual abuse are settling lawsuits with school districts that failed their students, costing taxpayers more than $313 million in the past seven years.
Here are just a few of the statistics connecting sexual misconduct to California public and private schools.
- 1 in 10 students will experience sexual misconduct from a school official by the time they graduate from high school.
- The perpetrators are typically male (67%), white (78%), with an average age of 36 years old.
- Positions that are typically perpetrators of sexual abuse include general education teachers (68%), coaches (21%), and music/art teachers (9%).
- Locations of sexual abuse against students include at school or during school events (53%), outside of school (53%), and online (19%).
A yearlong investigation by the Southern California News Group of nearly 1,900 pages of documents and more than 100 hours of recorded police interviews revealed a more than decade-long pattern of covering up sex abuse allegations.
Recent Notable Sexual Abuse Cases Against California Public and Private Schools
Thanks to the California Child Victims Act, there is an incredible opportunity for survivors of sexual abuse to pursue justice, regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred.
- Bellarmine College Preparatory School: Suits filed under the California Child Victims Act (AB 218) against Bellarmine College Preparatory School (Diocese of San Jose), the Archdiocese of San Francisco, and the Society of Jesus for child sexual assault by Brother William C. Farrington, S.J., who worked at the school in the 1960s and 1970s.
- La Habra High School: A suit against Fullerton Joint Union High School District for childhood sexual assault by Charles “Chuck” Ritz III, a math teacher, soccer coach, and surf club advisor at La Habra High School from 1986 to 2016.
- Mater Dei High School: Multiple suits against Mater Dei, a prestigious private school in Santa Ana that was home to multiple child sexual assault offenders throughout the 1980s and 1990s, and the Diocese of Orange for the actions of known perpetrator Monsignor Michael Harris and its role in the institutional cover-up of child sexual assault.
- Sonoma Academy: Sonoma Academy released a 2021 report alleging humanities teacher Marco Marrone, who was employed by Sonoma Academy from 2002 to 2020, sexually harassed or acted inappropriately with at least 34 female students.
- St. Francis High School: Multiple suits against Saint Francis High School (La Canada Flintridge, CA); the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin; and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for child sexual assault by one of its religious order priests – Father Christopher Kearney O.F.M.Cap. – who worked at the school between 1970-1995.
The Consumer Justice Action team believes that victims of sexual abuse and their families should be able to address these California public and private institutions that were allegedly the source of the abuse and get the compensation and justice they deserve.
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