Boarding School Sexual Abuse Lawyers in Pennsylvania

Young Girl in Pennsylvania Boarding Schools exposed to Sexual Abuse

Parents in Pennsylvania should be able to feel confident that when they send their children to school, they are entrusting them to a safe and protective environment as well as an educational one.

Unfortunately, while that is the case in the majority of cases, more tales of boarding school sexual abuse have come to light in recent years.

Some statistics suggest that as many as one in ten of all students from kindergarten to high school around the U.S. will experience sexual misconduct of some description in their lives.

UPDATE: HB 963 to extend the statute of limitations on sexual abuse

Public and private school students of all ages have suffered abuse at the hands of teachers, other staff members, coaches, or even guidance counselors and fellow students.

If you or your child is a victim of boarding school sexual abuse in Pennsylvania, the experienced team of lawyers at Andreozzi & Foote can help you take the first steps towards justice, hold the school accountable, and claim the compensation you are entitled to.

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Boarding school and private school abuse

People in Pennsylvania have become increasingly aware of the widespread sexual abuse of private school students with high-profile cases involving the Catholic Church.

While these cases make the news headlines, abuse cases have occurred in private schools of all types – related to religious institutions, charitable organizations, and other establishments.

At boarding schools, students generally live in close quarters with one another and staff in dormitories or on-campus residences.

This provides security and educators, administrators, and facility staff are often in closer contact with students than at other public and private schools. School staff routinely spend most of the day with these children and may even supervise at night.

This type of environment appears to be a magnet (and a breeding ground) for sexual predators.

Boarding school students spend most of term-time away from their families, and so are less likely to be able to report the abuse and stop it from happening.

Many have suffered in silence. Alarming numbers have been sexually molested, harassed, or sexually assaulted, leading to lifelong psychological damage.

With religious institutions generally expected to uphold high moral standards, parents are often trusting and let their guard down when sending their children to such schools. If abuse does occur, the institutions have often rallied around and protected the school’s reputation before the interests of the victims.

Reasonable family expectations of private & boarding schools

Depressed victim of abuse in Pennsylvania boarding schools-minIt is reasonable for parents in Pennsylvania to expect that their child is safe and well cared for when entering a boarding school environment – especially those considered the most prestigious in the area.

Many schools provide residential programs promising shelter, security, and safety for the children who live on campus.

Parents expect that a respectable school has correctly screened its teachers and may let their guard down, believing that everybody looks out for everybody else.

Boarding school administrators and teachers are seen as surrogate parents, watching out for their kids’ wellbeing as well as their education in their absence. A duty of care to students is a reasonable expectation for parents.

Unfortunately, the reality behind the scenes can be very different. Failed school policies, a lack of checks and balances, and a failure to act on reports of abuse can all have disastrous consequences for children.

The main problems are:

  • Poor hiring practices with a lack of background checks

  • Failure to retain the best staff and desperation to fill positions

  • Negligent supervision of children in boarding schools by the school faculty, employees, and teachers

Students or their parents can hold a boarding school liable for sexual abuse if it occurs as a result of the actions (or inaction) of an employee.

However, there is a reasonable fear for parents that taking a sexual predator to court could be worse for the child (who must re-live the experience) than it is for the predator.

Alternatively, it can be empowering for a child to experience a sense of justice for the misdeeds perpetrated against them. The legal action may also help prevent abuse from occurring to others in the future.

Both the local court and your attorney will attempt to shield your child from any adverse psychological trauma – and victim support groups are available to assist you and your child too.

Why are boarding school sexual abuse cases covered up?

That boarding school sexual abuse occurs at all is shocking to many Pennsylvanians. The fact that it is then covered up makes the crime even worse.

Sadly, school authorities have frequently failed to notify the appropriate law enforcement authorities to stop the abuse and bring the perpetrator to justice.

Cover-ups happen largely to avoid negative publicity for the school. In some cases, evidence has even been destroyed to avoid scandal for the school and costly sexual assault abuse lawsuits.

Sometimes, strong rumors have gone uninvestigated. At other times, plaintiffs have been steered to use an outside consultant of the school rather than seeking proper legal advice.

Perpetrators have often been allowed to remain on paid leave during investigations. Only after being found convicted were they forced to resign their position from the school.

Boarding schools that can be shown to have protected their own interests instead of those of child victims can be held liable under Pennsylvania’s child abuse laws.

Boarding schools enabling sexual predators

Sexual Abuse in Schools and Boarding Schools by PeersGrooming victims is common practice for sexual predators within the boarding school system and elsewhere. A predator earns a child’s trust and tests them to see what they can get away with before a pattern of stronger abuse takes hold.

Some abusers are very adept at this strategy, targeting vulnerable individuals who may feel lonely or have low self-esteem. Many specialize in making the victim feel partly to blame for the abuse, so they unwittingly shield the perpetrator by not reporting it.

The close-knit community in boarding schools provides plenty of opportunities for predators to target easily accessible victims.

Examples of predatory behavior

Some typical examples of predatory behavior include:

  • Building trust with victims

  • Encouraging reliance on the abuser

  • Gift-giving and acts of kindness

  • Strategies to isolate the victim (private tutoring or training)

  • Gradual sexual interaction, starting with touching/fondling

  • Maintaining secrecy and cultivating feelings of shame, guilt, and fear/threat

Boarding schools enabling sexual predators

Grooming victims is common practice for sexual predators within the boarding school system and elsewhere. A predator earns a child’s trust and tests them to see what they can get away with before a pattern of stronger abuse takes hold.

Some abusers are very adept at this strategy, targeting vulnerable individuals who may feel lonely or have low self-esteem. Many specialize in making the victim feel partly to blame for the abuse, so they unwittingly shield the perpetrator by not reporting it.

The close-knit community in boarding schools provides plenty of opportunities for predators to target easily accessible victims.

Reporting boarding school sexual abuse in Pennsylvania

It is mandated by the state and federal governments that school administrators and school owners must report any inappropriate sexual activity involving students.

It shouldn’t need to be mandated but at least the laws mean that those who have covered up the abuse in boarding schools can be held accountable along with the perpetrators.

If boarding school officials fail to report sexual abuse, criminal charges and civil litigation may follow.

Some predators slip through the system as schools across the country are not required to share information involving child abuse with other educational institutions. Many have simply moved interstate and found new employment.

Fortunately, with greater awareness of the problem of sexual abuse within the educational system, the legal loopholes for sexual predators are slowly closing. As more victims come forward, it should help to protect more children in the future.

Help for boarding school sexual abuse victims in Pennsylvania

If you would like the sexual abuse lawyers, at Andreozzi & Foote to evaluate your case, please call 1 (877)-214-3238 for a free consultation.

All the information you provide will be treated confidentially, including your identity.

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