Foreseeability in sexual abuse cases: Appellate Court clarifies legal standards for claims against school districts

In a recent case, the CA Court of Appeal held that school administrators may breach a duty to protect students from sexual abuse by district employees by failing to take reasonable measures to prevent abuse, even if the school does not have actual knowledge of the employee’s history of committing, or propensity to commit, sexual abuse. The court further ruled that a plaintiff suing for breach of the mandatory duty to report suspected abuse must prove it was objectively reasonable for the mandated reporter to suspect abuse based on the facts the reporter actually knew, not on the facts the reporter reasonably should have known.

The bottom line is that school districts and staff may be liable in sexual abuse cases for breach of the duty of care even where they lack actual knowledge of past misconduct, but they are not obligated to report suspected sexual abuse absent actual knowledge of such suspected abuse.

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