It’s been about 5 years since the Penn State sex abuse scandal broke. It involved one of the largest school sex abuse scandals in U.S. history. Jerry Sandusky, a former football staff member at Penn State, was convicted of dozens of counts of sexually abusing young boys over a period of many years. According to prosecutors, many acts of abuse occurred on campus grounds. Multiple school administrators faced allegations that they turned a blind eye and buried reports that Sandusky was abusing young boys.
The fallout was extreme. Aside from the multiple sex abuse lawsuits filed against Sandusky and the school, the NCAA imposed major sanctions on the school’s beloved football team.
More importantly, legislatures across the U.S. responded to the scandal by tightening child sex abuse laws. There were a slew of new laws passed and old ones amended. Some updated background check requirements. Others amended statute of limitations laws allowing victims more time to seek justice by filing a civil lawsuit.
In Pennsylvania, the legislature passed the institutional sex abuse law making it a crime for anyone in an educational setting to sexually abuse minors. As a result, teachers, coaches and other school employees who abuse a student may be convicted of institutional sex abuse, a 3rd degree felony which carries a possible maximum sentence of 7 years in prison.
In addition, schools across Pennsylvania instituted procedures to train school employees about reporting allegations of sex abuse by students and teachers alike. Students across the state also received sex abuse education about inappropriate touching.
However, sex abuse in schools is still a common occurrence. Since the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal broke in November 2011, there have been literally dozens of sex abuse reports involving teachers in Pennsylvania who have abused students, and many involve allegations that school officials failed to investigate or report the conduct.
What’s surprising is that the many of these new reports involve conduct that occurred in the last few years. Take the recent school sex abuse scandal in Pittsburgh. Two teachers at a local high school have been accused of sexually abusing students. The conduct is alleged to have occurred within the last 2-3 years. School officials were recently investigated by a special grand jury for failing to take appropriate action in response to reports of the abuse.
The grand jury issued its report in February of this year and concluded that: “the staff and administration [of the school district] left their students vulnerable and enabled teachers to behave inappropriately by: (1) failing to take appropriate administrative action against [a teacher] in prior years before criminal action became necessary, (2) failing to document what little administrative action had been taken against [a teacher] in his personnel file, (3) ignoring their obligations as mandatory reporters [of child sex abuse]…”
This recent grand jury report and the other recent cases of school sex abuse in PA are a clear indication that schools and school employees, such as teachers, coaches, etc., have simply failed to learn anything from the Sandusky scandal. Schools must do better to prevent sex abuse of students. Get more info, visit our school sex abuse law library.
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