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Are your kids safe at school if the school hires a pedophile?

According to the California Constitution, all students and staff of public schools have the inalienable right to attend campuses that are safe, secure, and peaceful. Cal. Const. Art. I, Section 28(c). All school districts must comply with this requirement, and are prohibited from taking official actions that violate or contravene its provisions.

But is a school district held accountable to these requirements, if it, for instance, knowingly employs a pedophile? The California Supreme Court says, maybe.

In the matter of C.A. v. William S. Hart Union High School District (2010) 189 Cal. App. 4th 1166, plaintiff alleges he was sexually harassed, abused, and molested by his high school guidance counselor, and further, that his school district knew the guidance counselor had engaged in such behavior in the past and/or was continuing to so engage.

Plaintiff’s claim was thrown out twice at the lower levels, whose decisions relied upon earlier cases holding school districts would not be liable for sexual molestation by teachers. However, in his dissenting opinion, Presiding Justice Robert Mallano discussed the potential for school district liability arising out of the negligence of other school district employees who were responsible for hiring, supervising, training, and/or retaining the known pedophile.

The possibility that a school district may, lawfully and without retribution, knowingly employ a pedophile, and knowingly fail to take steps to protect the students under its care, should be alarming to most parents. Hopefully, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and Justices Carlos Moreno, Marvin Bacter, Kathryn M. Werdegar, and Carol Corrigan, who voted to hear the case, will be able to ease the concerns of parents and children alike.

There are a number of situations in which students, and parents of students, injured during school and/or school activities can be compensated. At Heiting & Irwin, we have in excess of 35 years experience handling personal injury cases, including for injuries sustained during school and/or school activities. We offer free consultations, a warm and inviting office, and a friendly staff to folks interested in speaking about a potential legal matter. If you would like to speak with someone about your injuries, please call our office at (951) 682-6400 for a free consultation.

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