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The Problem of Passing Sexually Abusive Teachers from School to School (AKA, Passing the Trash)

It is no mystery – teachers generally do not get up one day and decide to start sexually abusing a student. Rather, the teacher often begins acting inappropriately with students, such as spending more time with specific students, texting students, etc. Over time, the inappropriate behavior turns into sexual acts. This cycle of behavior often continues for months if not years before the teacher finally gets caught.

Related: School Policies re: Sex Abuse of Students – The Importance of Training and Education

The problem is that schools often engage in something known as “passing the trash,” whereby problem teachers are laid off rather than fired. This allows problem teachers to turn around and get jobs at unsuspecting schools where they pick up right where they left off. Some schools go so far as to give glowing recommendations for such problem teachers, just to get these teachers out of their schools, thus “passing the trash.”

For example, a teacher at school A starts an inappropriate relationship with a student. School administrators find out and rather than reporting the teacher to authorities, school administrators decide to lay the teacher off to avoid an investigation. Later, the teacher applies for a teaching position at school B. Administrators at school B conduct an employment verification and contact school A. School A never mentions the inappropriate conduct and instead gives a glowing recommendation. As a result, school B hires the teacher who later begins sexually abusing a student at school B.

More: The Problem of Sex Abuse in Schools Begins with the School Itself

Here, school A’s actions led to the teacher’s hiring at school B and also led to the sexual abuse of the student at school B. School A intentionally failed to reveal the details about the teacher’s inappropriate conduct. In essence, school A chose to protect itself.

School Liability for Failing to Notify a Subsequent School

Could school A be held liable? The answer depends on the extent of the inappropriate conduct at school A and whether the conduct was verified. If school A had concrete evidence of sexual acts and sexual abuse and there is evidence that the school swept the evidence under the rug, the school could be held liable in a subsequent lawsuit brought by a student who was sexually abused by the teacher at school B.

The key is the strength of the evidence. Often, other employees at the first school (school A) knew about the abuse and may have even reported the abuse. However, school administrators chose to avoid an investigation and media attention, and instead decided to bury the reports. Internal memos, notes, emails, etc., may all be crucial pieces of evidence in showing that the school passed the trash and failed to notify a subsequent school about a problem teacher.

School Sex Abuse Lawyer

Brian Kent is a former prosecutor who now represents victims of sex abuse in civil matters. Click the link for more information about our school sex abuse law practice. Please call the firm for a free case review. Click To Call

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