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Teacher-Student Abuse Laws

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When Is Considered Abuse of a Student?

Abuse of a student by a teacher occurs when a teacher violates a student’s rights or endangers their safety and well-being. Such incidents are treated very seriouslyboth state and federal laws strictly regulate the standards by which teachers are supposed to conduct themselves. A teacher who violates educational standards may be subject to both civil and criminal penalties. 

Although it is not exactly commonplace for teachers to abuse students, it does happen often. However, many students (especially younger students) may not be aware that they had been subject to mistreatment. Therefore it is best if both students and parents are aware of any situations that might be considered abusive.   

What Are Some Examples of Teacher-Student Abuse?

Student abuse can come in many forms and may involve situations that are not necessarily physically abusive. Some common examples of abuse by a teacher include:

  • Physical, emotional, or sexual harassment of the child
  • Excessive or unauthorized use of “corporeal punishment” (physical force)
  • Discrimination based on protected categories, such as race, gender, or disability
  • Restrictions on the constitutional rights of the student, such as those involving free speech and freedom of expression
  • Failure to address any special needs of the student, such as handicap access
  • Unfair academic treatment, including bias or preferential treatment in grading
  • Denial of educational opportunities

Again, one of the major problems with teacher/student abuse is the fact that many young students may not recognize whether they are being abused or not. Be sure to get involved with your child’s education and be aware if your child informs you of any of abusive circumstances in their school. 

What Should I Do If My Child Was Mistreated at School?

If you believe that your child was abused at school by a teacher or other educational worker, there are many steps that you can take to get involved:

  • Contact the school board and school officials immediately. Schedule a meeting as soon as possible while the incident is still fresh in the student’s mind. Any delays in informing authorities could negatively affect a future claim.
  • Familiarize yourself with school policies and regulations regarding teacher conduct. Inquire whether the school district has had previous incidents of student abuse.
  • Request that the school district conduct an investigation of the incident. You should ask the investigating persons to provide you with a written, formal explanation of their findings.
  • If the school board does not provide an adequate solution to the problem, you may have to file for an investigation with a government agency, such as the Department of Education. The Department will conduct an investigation into the abuse and will prescribe corrective measures if appropriate.
  • If a government investigation is still not adequate, you may wish to file a private civil lawsuit to recover for losses or injuries. Some claims require that the victim file with a government agency before being allowed to file a lawsuit. Criminal charges may also be involved depending on the circumstances.

Make sure that you take any complaints from your child very seriously.  You will not be penalized in any way for filing a report with the school district or with a government agency. Student safety and equality is one of the state’s top concerns, so be sure to file an accurate and timely report if you suspect abuse. 

Do I need a Lawyer if my Child has been Abused by a Teacher?

If you suspect that a teacher has abused your child in any way, you should contact school authorities immediately. If the situation appears to be very dangerous for the child, you may also wish to alert police authorities and contact a lawyer for advice. Your attorney will be able to help you file a claim if necessary and can explain to you the various laws that govern teachers in public educational institutions. 

Photo of page author Kristen Johnson

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 09-25-2017 02:52 AM PDT

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