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Sexual Harassment In Schools

Sexual harassment is traditionally thought of as a problem that arises in an employer-employee relationship. However, cases involving sexual harassment in schools have become more common.

In Illinois, the federal courts have recently decided that schools that do not respond appropriately to student-on-student sexual harassment may be held liable for the actions of the harassing student. In other words, the school is responsible not through the student's actions but through its own actions in failing to address the problem. Schools need not be successful in eliminating the harassment, but their response must be plausibly directed toward putting an end to the known harassment.

Courts have found that if school officials aggressively investigate all complaints of sexual harassment and respond consistently and meaningfully when the complaints are determined to have merit, then liability can be avoided. However, the schools must have actual notice of the harassment, which means that they must have been directly informed in some way.

One Illinois case involved a female high school student who was the victim of ongoing verbal and physical sexual harassment by a group of male students for 18 months. The harassment included unwanted touching, sexually explicit talk, and the deliberate exposure of one of the harasser's genitals in front of the female student. Both the student and the parents complained to the school principals, counselors, directors, and other officials on numerous occasions. The school suspended two of the male students for 10 days and transferred one student out of the female student's class. However, the court found that the female student could pursue a lawsuit against the school for failing to take prompt, appropriate action.

This website is not intended to constitute legal advice or the provision of legal services. By posting and/or maintaining the website and its contents, Lucas Law does not intend to solicit business from clients located in states or jurisdictions outside of Illinois wherein Lucas Law or its individual attorney(s) are not licensed or authorized to practice law.

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