California Schools Paying the Price

Written by Amanda Williams

California schools, specifically within San Diego County, have been suffering due to the lack of policies establishing clear boundaries between teachers and students. With many child abuse court cases across the county, the district has been paying millions of dollars towards lawsuits due to the weakness of these policies.

The case that instigated the need for change occurred at Crawford High School. During the 2015-2016 school year, a Spanish teacher and volleyball coach had an inappropriate relationship with a male student. The inappropriate relations took place within her classroom, at her home, and in her car.

However, there were very many prior warning signs prior that the school ignored. The teacher sent messages late at night and even gave the student rides home from school. After direct evidence was reported, the teacher was removed from her position. Furthermore, the teacher, along with the school district, was sued for negligence as well as a lack of training and policies to prevent such behavior. The student received a $2.1 million award for emotional distress and sexual harassment.

Alarmingly, three similar cases arose at Sweetwater Union High School District, Mar Vista High School, and Bonita Vista High School. In each case, the students involved all voiced how the educators abused the power granted to them in their position. Moreover, each student explained how their districts did not have preventative measures against this type of inappropriate behavior. Lastly, each case had the common denominator of the educator instigating the interactions. Harmless interactions, in each case, progressed into sexually abusive behavior.

Anthony DeMarco, a child sexual abuse attorney in California, commented on how the majority of California schools only do the bare minimum. The bare minimum comprises of a mandated training program that does not thoroughly educate teachers on what the correct behavior looks like.

However, the San Diego Unified School District is attempting to make improvements to prevent such behavior. There are now optional trainings courses that address the issue of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior with students. While the practice is an improvement, there is no doubt that school districts must establish clear and concrete policies explaining proper behavior between a teacher and student.

After multiple lawsuits for negligence and failure to recognize warning signs, it is imperative that the districts implement a thorough policy regarding sexual harassment. Mandatory training, along with other policies, will help decrease child abuse cases, creating a safer school environment for students. 


Photo by Moren Hsu