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Sexual Misconduct by School Teachers

Experienced Lawyer Sexual misconduct committed by teachers includes having physical contact with a student’s intimate parts, bullying or cajoling a student into touching the teacher’s intimate parts, and having sexual intercourse with a student. Showing pornographic images to a student or discussing sexual practices in graphic terms is often a way of grooming students so that they will be receptive to sexual contact. Unfortunately, most instances of sexual abuse are never reported to the police. Children who are made to feel ashamed or bullied don’t tell their parents, and school administrators often prefer to believe a teacher’s denials rather than the word of the student. Predatory Teachers Only a small percentage of teachers sexually abuse their students, but those who do typically have many victims over a period of many years. One study suggests that almost 7% of students in grades 8 to 11 have been sexually abused in a way that involves physical contact with a teacher, coach, bus driver, or other school employee. Other studies suggest that, while sexual abuse is more common in middle and high school, 38% of educator-abusers target students in elementary school. One researcher reports that “educators who target elementary school children are often high achievers in the profession and, compared to their non-abusing counterparts, hold a disproportionate number of awards and teaching recognitions.” The fact that a teacher is trusted and respected does not assure that the teacher will not sexually abuse a student. Gaining the trust of younger students is the key to an abuser’s ability to continue abusing students. Abused students are reluctant to accuse a popular teacher, and school boards have difficulty believing that a respected teacher could be abusing students. Emotional Harm to Students The long-term impact of sexual abuse on a student can be devastating. Students who generalize their fear of a specific teacher may begin to fear all teachers, impairing their ability to do well in school. Sexual abuse affects self-esteem and self-confidence. Students often blame themselves when they become sexually involved with a teacher, leading to lasting feelings of guilt. Students may also feel guilty about making an accusation that could harm a teacher’s career. Students who have been sexually abused by a teacher may have difficulty engaging in loving sexual relationships with age-appropriate peers after they leave school and begin an adult life. While no stigma should attach to being a sexual assault victim,...
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