Schools must protect their students from sexual harassment. If a student reports sexual harassment to the school and they fail to take action, they can pursue litigation. Students can also pursue litigation if the school fails to foster a harassment-free environment.
If you or someone you know experienced sexual harassment at school, you may want to take action against the harasser. While this can help you seek justice, you shouldn't let schools off the hook. Filing a lawsuit will hold the school accountable and allow you to recover compensation.
You should speak with an attorney to determine the best course of action. An experienced attorney can advise you on whether you should sue a school. In this article, we'll review how the laws and procedures for suing a school for harassment.
What is Sexual Harassment?
Before filing a lawsuit, you should understand school policies on sexual harassment. The U.S. Department of Education's Title IX policy prohibits sexual harassment in publicly funded schools, from grade schools to public universities. Since sexual harassment is a form of gender-based discrimination, schools that allow this behavior risk losing federal funds.
The Title IX Final Rule changed the definition of sexual harassment as it relates to schools. Schools must now prohibit all “unwelcome conduct determined by a reasonable person to be so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the school's education program or activity.”
Sexual harassment includes sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking. School employees who offer educational benefits in exchange for unwelcome sexual conduct can also be charged with sexual harassment.
Here are some examples of sexual harassment in schools:
- Touching someone inappropriately
- Making sexual comments
- Offering a better grade in exchange for sexual favors
- Sending unwanted sexual messages
- Sending unwanted explicit pictures and videos
- Making sexual gestures
- Joking about someone's sexuality or gender
How Do Schools Handle Sexual Harassment?
Schools have procedures for responding to sexual harassment complaints. While schools establish their disciplinary procedures, public schools must also follow Title IX protocols to investigate sexual harassment.
The Title IX Final Rule mandates that schools provide free supportive measures to alleged victims of sexual harassment. These measures help restore equal access to education, protect students, and deter harassment.
Schools must also investigate all formal complaints of sexual harassment. Title IX requires a fair grievance process to address sexual harassment allegations. They must give students the ability to report and submit evidence of harassment. During the grievance process, schools must also protect parties' privacy and keep records of the allegations.
When to Sue for Sexual Harassment
Although Title IX sets clear guidelines for responding to sexual harassment, schools do not always abide by these rules. You may file a lawsuit against a school if they failed to address a student's sexual harassment complaint.
Many students have successfully sued schools for failing to take corrective action following sexual harassment. If the school refuses to punish the defendant following a sexual harassment investigation, you may have grounds for a lawsuit.
You can also sue a school for failing to protect students from sexual harassment. For example, if a school employee did not intervene when witnessing sexual harassment against a student. Another example is when school staff fails to supervise students and harassment occurs.
Schools bear the burden of protecting students from harassment. If a school creates an environment that contributes to sexual harassment, students can take legal action. Courts can find schools negligent if they employ staff with a history of harassing students or if they do not hold their staff accountable for their actions.
How to Sue a School for Sexual Harassment
The sad reality is that sexual harassment occurs in schools around the nation. Victims of sexual harassment must take legal steps to hold guilty parties accountable.
Schools must have actual knowledge of harassment to be sued. You must report sexual harassment to a school official before pursuing litigation. You should also notify the police. By filing a report with the authorities, you will have documentation of the harassment that could prove instrumental in your case.
Your next step is to contact a student-discipline attorney. An experienced lawyer can help you recover compensation and fight to get you the justice you deserve. An attorney will review the facts surrounding the harassment and the school's response to the complaint. They can also help you collect evidence, negotiate with the schools, and collect damages.
Many states have strict requirements to sue schools. Since public schools are government entities, they benefit from sovereign immunity. This gives them immunity from civil and criminal lawsuits.
Although sexual harassment is an exception to this rule, schools still have legal protections. In many areas, you'll have to file a notice of intent. This document includes an overview of the harassment, the wrongdoing by the school, and a demand for compensation.
Since schools benefit from sovereign immunity, the timeline to sue a school is often fast. In many states, the statute of limitations to file a lawsuit against a school is only a few months.
If you want to pursue litigation against a school, you must consult an attorney right away. Attorneys will ensure you hit all deadlines and requirements necessary to sue a school. Don't let procedural mistakes come between you and justice. By utilizing the services of an experienced attorney, you can set yourself up for success and a favorable outcome.
Your National Student Rights Attorney
Sexual harassment can be a painful experience that leaves a lasting mark for years to come. If a school is liable for sexual harassment, you must take steps to hold them accountable. An experienced attorney has the skills needed to take on school districts. A lawyer will help you hit hard when necessary, meet deadlines, follow procedure, and get the justice you deserve.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has a unique understanding of sexual harassment law. As an experienced student advocate, he and his team have helped many clients across the nation file lawsuits and recover compensation from schools. He will fight to achieve a successful outcome and help you move on with your life. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 to schedule a consultation today.