April 16, 2014

Death Star

April 15, 2014

Summary: Like the Death Star in Star Wars, school districts have one fundamental, crippling flaw – most schools don’t have insurance that covers sexual abuses by their bus drivers.  Proactive schools have this insurance, along with your child’s safety in mind.  Reactive schools do not; if your child is abused by a bus driver, the reactive school has fiscal incentive to keep it quiet.

Recently, a rash of sexual abuses by bus drivers and aides has taken headlines across the nation.  The central point in these cases are ‘negligence’ and ‘failure to prevent’ the incidents by the schools that employ these monsters.  In these cases, school districts can be held liable for the criminal behavior of these employees.  This is important to know; as a parent, you should know your rights in this type of situation.  But, there is more you should know than just simply knowing the school can be held liable – a parent should know what specific measures makes a school better postured to protect children and prevent abuses.

Here is a basic look at the differences between a proactive school and a reactive school:

Comparison: Proactive vs. Reactive Schools

[one_half last=”no”]
Proactive Schools

  • Conduct background checks on all employees; makes contact with their references, and reviews social media.
  • Has cameras in classrooms, buses, and common areas; will use a two-person integrity system if not.
  • Has mandatory sexual-abuse training for all employees, and can prove it; policies eliminates all loopholes.
  • Every school employee knows the rules about mandatory reporting.
  • Students in the school know the process to report sexual abuse; can identify if an employee is acting improperly.

[one_half last=”yes”]
Reactive Schools

  • May or may not conduct background checks; often does not contact references, and doesn’t review social media.
  • Likely does not have cameras on their buses or in their classrooms. Teachers are given alone time with students.
  • Requires sexual-abuse training, but can’t prove the training occurred. Policies are vague and not strictly enforced.
  • Employees might know mandatory reporting laws, but not specifics.
  • Students don’t know where to go if they are victims; they are unsure what inappropriate behavior is considered.


There are many more points that could be identified for both proactive and reactive school districts; that isn’t the point of the comparison.  The point of the comparison is to show the habits that safe and unsafe schools follow.  If you as a parent can point out the trends, good or bad, it could tip you off to look for other red flags in your child’s behavior – if identified early enough, you might be able to prevent your child from being a victim altogether; at minimum, you can put a stop to the abuse immediately.

It’s in situations like these where it’s most important to know the warning signs of sexual abuse.  Many boards of education are utterly ignorant to the potential risk of sexual abuse liability; the same goes for the contractors that employ your child’s bus drivers and aides.  Imagine the slippery slope impact in the worse –case scenario: one day, you discover your child has fallen victim to sexual abuse by their bus driver.  Neither the school district nor the bus contractors have sexual abuse liability coverage on their insurance plans.  The school and/or the contractor are fully on the hook for damages because they don’t have this insurance; because of this, they can either pay a large settlement to the victim, or they can sweep it under the rug in the hopes it’s never reported by the victim.

Over the past decade, landmark settlements and court judgments have been levied on schools that have been proven to hush allegations of sexual abuses in their schools.  While it shows increased awareness of sexual abuse, it underscores that the status-quo for the school was to keep the incident quiet.  The reason why is easy enough to understand.  Administrators at the school get very nervous when sexual abuse allegations are uncovered, because it happened on their watch.  As a result, the administrator has motive to keep it quiet, so they can keep their jobs.  Teachers also get nervous, because some of them might have noticed irregular behavior, but didn’t report it – either to ‘look out’ for their fellow teacher or from fear of reprisal from the administrators that want to keep their jobs.  In any case, teachers and administrators will very likely choose keeping their jobs over your child’s safety if it came down to it.

We can’t expect school’s leadership to have our child’s safety as their top priority; it’s nice when they do, but it’s not a guarantee.  Nobody cares more about your child’s safety than you do – that’s why it’s so important to understand exactly what ‘safety’ truly means in our schools.  Is your child in a proactive or reactive school?

If your child, or a child you know is a victim of sexual abuse, contact your local police department and report it.  To find out more about the victim’s legal rights, contact Estey & Bomberger today to get a free consultation at (800) 925-0723 or via email at info@estey-bomberger.com.