There are four main signs that a teacher may be engaging in sexual misconduct with a student. These are that the student:
- shows hesitation with wanting to go to school,
- has difficulty in class,
- experiences health problems, and
- hints at misconduct.
Under California law, a teacher that engages in misconduct with a student could be charged with a crime, lewd acts with a minor child per California Penal Code 288 PC.
Further, acts of misconduct could give rise to a civil lawsuit against the teacher, per California sexual harassment law Civil Code 51.9.
And, civil charges may even be able to get brought against the school district (in which the teacher is teaching in), for their negligent hiring, supervision or retention of the teacher.
What are signs that a teacher is engaging in sexual misconduct with a student?
Some indications that a student is experiencing sexual misconduct from a teacher include:
- the student does not want to go to school (this is especially a red flag if the student was previously excited to attend school);
- the student has difficulty in class (including a lack of focus and problems with studying);
- the student experiences health problems (e.g., loss of appetite, sleep trouble, and lack of confidence); and,
- the student hints at instances of misconduct.
As to this last sign, please note that students are more likely to hint at acts of misconduct rather than provide full disclosures. This is typically because the student may fear that:
- the teacher will cause the student harm; or,
- the student will be treated harshly by his parents or other adults.
What is California Penal Code 288 PC?
Penal Code 288 is the California statute on lewd acts with a minor child. Under this statute, a teacher could be charged with a crime for engaging in sexual misconduct with a student.
PC 288 says that it is a crime for a person to engage in “lewd acts” with a child under the age of 16. The section defines a “lewd act” as either:
- touching a child for sexual purposes, or
- causing a child to touch him/herself or someone else for a sexual purpose.
A violation of PC 288 is typically charged as a felony. The penalty for the crime will vary depending on the age of the child and the facts involved. However, most offenses are punishable by years in jail and substantial fines.
What is California Civil Code 51.9?
California sexual harassment law, Civil Code 51.9, allows a victim of sexual harassment to file a civil lawsuit against the harasser if the harassment occurred in:
- the context of a business relationship, or
- a professional relationship.
Sexual harassment by a teacher is considered a form of professional-relationship sexual harassment under California harassment law.
This means a student could sue a teacher for sexual misconduct and might be able to recover compensation for economic losses and/or emotional distress.
Can civil charges be brought against a school district if sexual misconduct took place?
Under California law, it may be possible for a victim of sexual misconduct to file a civil lawsuit against the school district. The lawsuit would be for the district’s negligent hiring of the teacher.
To succeed in this type of suit, the victim would have to prove the following:
- the teacher was incompetent to perform his/her job,
- the school district should have known of this incompetence, and
- the student was harmed because of the incompetence.