Illinois School Sexual Assault Lawyer
The sexual assault of one student at school is inexcusable. The fact that it happens on a recurring basis is outrageous. The Mahoney Law Firm is dedicated to empowering students and their parents by holding schools accountable and recovering just and fair compensation for their injuries.
If you are a survivor of school sexual assault in Illinois or the parent of a victim, please contact our lawyers for a free and completely confidential case consultation. We can help you understand your legal rights and seek justice during this difficult time.
Sexual assault is a harsh reality that many K-12 students live with at school every day without the awareness of their parents or the public at large. School officials have a legal obligation to provide adequate supervision to ensure all students enjoy a safe environment conducive to learning and growth.
On the “Stop Suffering in Silence” podcast, Attorney Ryan Mahoney discusses the process of coming forward and filing a civil suit against a school or other institution. Listen to learn more about our commitment to helping survivors pursue justice.
What Is School Sexual Assault?
Under state law in Illinois (720 ILCS 5/11-1.20(a)), a person is guilty of sexual assault if he or she commits an act of sexual penetration and uses force or threat of force; knows that the victim cannot give consent; is the family member of a victim under the age of 18; or is at least 17 years of age and holds a position of trust, authority or supervision in relation to a victim who is between the ages of 13 and 18. Criminal sexual assault is a Class 1 felony in Illinois.
School sexual assault specifically refers to instances of sexual assault, abuse or harassment within a school or educational setting. It can refer to sexual assault by a teacher or school administrator against a student, by a coach against an athlete, or by a student against a fellow student. In Illinois, no one under the age of 17 can lawfully give consent to sexual activity. In addition, under the state’s definition of sexual assault, no teacher can have sexual relations with a student he or she is teaching or supervising.
Examples of School Sexual Assault
Some cases of school sexual assault are obvious while others are more difficult to detect. Understanding the dynamics between many perpetrators and victims can help parents and school staff members identify, stop and prevent sexual abuse. In many cases, sexual assault is a way to exercise power over a victim. Frequently, sexual assault and abuse involve an imbalance of power at the school, such as teachers and coaches against vulnerable students.
School sexual assault can refer to many verbal and physical crimes against a victim in an educational institution or after-school program, such as:
- Requests for sexual favors
- Lewd or inappropriate comments or jokes based on sex or appearance
- Sexual harassment
- Unwelcome physical contact
- Inappropriate touching, hugging or kissing
- Fondling or groping
- Touching of the private parts (including a female’s breasts)
- Child pornography
- Stalking or cyberstalking
- Forced oral copulation
- Exposure of the sexual organs
- Dating violence
- Sexual penetration
- Rape or attempted rape
- Statutory rape
Sex crimes at school can occur in classrooms, bathrooms, locker rooms, gyms, offices, on-campus student housing, parking lots, buses, school trips and after-school activities. School sexual abuse can involve students of all ages, from daycare centers and pre-K to colleges and universities in Illinois. Finally, it can target both male and female students and be committed by either sex.
What Is Sexual Bullying?
Sexual bullying is a common form of sexual abuse in school settings. It refers to physical or nonphysical behaviors used by a perpetrator to harm or degrade someone based on sexuality or gender, typically as a form of intimidation or control. In these scenarios, a bully at school – such as an older student – targets a victim using sexually violent language, actions or behaviors as a show of power. Sexual bullying can involve offenses such as physical assault, sexual assault, cyberbullying and internet sex crimes, revenge porn, sexual harassment, and sexual hazing.
Illinois School Sexual Assault Statistics
According to the U.S. News & World Report, a 2019 investigation by the Department of Education revealed the following alarming statistics about Chicago Public Schools (CPS):
These allegations included teachers, coaches, a dean, bus drivers, vendor employees, custodians, and volunteers.
The Illinois state legislature has also found that sexual assault “disproportionately impacts women, children, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender” individuals throughout the state. According to an October 2020 report by the Office of Student Health at CPS, LGBTQ+ students were nearly two-and-a-half times more likely to experience sexual violence than non-LGBTQ students.
The Impact of Sexual Assault on Children and Teens
Children who experience sexual abuse may experience the following effects, according to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network:
Adolescents experience an increased risk of the following:
Long-term effects of childhood or adolescent sexual abuse and assault include, but are not limited to the following:
Children with adequate support from adults can recover without long-term effects, but in many cases, children and adolescents do not report the abuse.
Title IX Anti-Discrimination Regulations
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 protects students from discrimination based on sex and includes protection from a hostile learning environment created by sexual assault. Title IX requires schools to promptly and adequately investigate sexual assault complaints and take the necessary steps to protect students from contact with the perpetrator, related harassment by other students, and other elements that foster a hostile learning environment.
Schools must also designate a Title IX coordinator responsible for receiving complaints and carrying out Title IX requirements.
According to the U.S. News report, an investigation by the Department of Education, which it characterized as “deeply disturbing,” determined that CPS failed to comply with Title IX after uncovering thousands of mishandled sexual assault and abuse complaints. In response, a sweeping redesign of the CPS Title IX procedures was required, and $4 million in public funds were withheld.
Who is liable in school sexual assault cases?
Sexual assault is a crime that is punishable by imprisonment, fines, a criminal record, and lifetime sex offender registration. It is also a civil offense for which multiple parties may be liable.
The perpetrator can be held both criminally and civilly liable for the damages caused. Anyone whose acts or omissions fosters sexual assault can also face civil liability. When sexual assault occurs at school, the school may be liable due to the failure of school personnel to properly supervise students or where the school is on notice of the possibility of a sexual assault occurring against a student and does nothing to prevent it from happening.
The school may face federal liability under Title IX, even if the assault happened off campus. This situation can occur if the perpetrator is a school official or if the victim is a student or staff member forced to face the perpetrator at school.
Other forms of victimization can occur at the school regarding the abuse. Victims can face retaliation. If the school fails to intervene when personnel or students retaliate against a victim after a complaint is filed, additional liability may apply under Title IX.
Establishing liability after a sexual assault can be daunting, especially in Illinois, where the state statutes provide the schools with immunity from civil lawsuits. An experienced sexual assault lawyer in Illinois can help survivors overcome the Illinois Tort Immunity Act and recover their well-deserved compensation.
Questions to Consider After a School Sexual Assault
Sexual assault at school is never the victim’s fault and always the perpetrator’s fault. The school is also at fault if it failed to provide proper supervision, failed to properly screen employees upon hire, or knowingly hired someone with a criminal record. The following questions can help assess the school’s culpability.
What should I do if my child has been sexually assaulted at school?
If you have tragically learned that your child is the victim of sexual assault at school, it is important to act quickly.
When should I contact an attorney?
Contacting an attorney as soon as possible after your child is sexually assaulted can ensure that you and your child are compensated as soon as possible. If the sexual assault occurred in Illinois, and you intend to pursue a lawsuit against a school district or school employee, then you typically will only have 1 year from the victim’s 18th birthday to file your lawsuit. However, where the acts involved childhood sexual abuse, the statute of limitations can be up to 20 years after the victim’s eighteenth birthday or within 20 years of the date the person abused discovers that the act of childhood sexual abuse occurred and that their injuries were caused by the childhood sexual abuse. If you desire to have the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) investigate a claim falling under Title IX, there is a deadline of just 180 days to file an official complaint of Title IX violations. The regulations under Title IX, however, do not require that you file with OCR prior to filing a lawsuit in court.
These claims can obviously be complicated. The Mahoney Law Firm can help you in this process, provide advocacy for your child, help protect your child from retaliation by the school or other students, and file a civil lawsuit in either state or federal court on behalf of your child, depending on the facts of your case.
How much compensation is available for children who are sexually assaulted at school?
The availability and amount of compensation vary widely depending on the type of case you are eligible to file and the school’s role in the assault. Depending on the facts of your case, you may be eligible to recover the following compensation on behalf of your child:
How can the Mahoney Law Firm help me with my own or my child’s school sexual assault case?
Children have the right to feel safe at school, and schools have an obligation to facilitate an environment where this occurs. The Mahoney Law Firm is a fierce advocate for survivors of sexual assault. Our founder, Ryan Mahoney, has built a strong reputation for obtaining remarkable results while handling high-profile and difficult cases with compassion and vigor.
When you hire the Mahoney Law Firm, you can rest assured that you and your child will have access to every legal option available. Your child should never have to live in fear while attending school. Contact the Mahoney Law Firm, LLC today for a free consultation by calling (618) 961-8288.