We have written many times about the institutional failings that have allowed for the widespread sex abuse of children by Catholic priests and other church officials. Even if sex abuse was limited to just a handful of priests (which is not the case), some of these predators have abused dozens of victims. Such crimes can only continue for so long because those in power allowed them to continue.
But institutionalized child sex abuse is not just a problem in churches. It also happens in youth organizations (like the Boy Scouts of America) and school districts. In fact, the nation’s second largest school district recently agreed to pay $88 million to settle sex abuse lawsuits filed on behalf of 30 children and their families.
The abuse documented in these cases occurred at two elementary schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). At both schools, one or more teachers sexually abused a significant number of students during their careers. In retrospect, it was clear that numerous complaints had been made against the teachers long before they were ever arrested or removed from the classroom. Because of this long-standing pattern, there is little doubt about LAUSD’s culpability and liability.
It is telling that the $88 million settlement is not even the largest payout LAUSD has made. In 2012, a teacher at a different school in the district was arrested for abusing as many as 100 students. He is now serving 25 years in prison, and the LAUSD issued $175 million in victim payouts related to the case.
Sex abuse scandals have impacted families and communities across the country. The prominence of these scandals in Pennsylvania has led to stronger reporting requirements and other legal changes aimed at keeping children safe. These reforms are a good start, but the problem of institutionalized child sex abuse remains much more widespread than many people realize.