School districts can be held liable for administrators who learn an employee may be prone to molesting children but fail to take action to protect students, the California Supreme Court ruled last week.
The unanimous ruling came in a 2007 case of molestation of a 15-year-old boy by the head guidance counselor at a Los Angeles County high school. The decision overturned trial and appellate court decisions upholding the dismissal of the lawsuit filed by the unidentified student, who was molested over eight months.
The William S. Hart Union High School District had argued that administrators should not be held liable for the actions of an employee because they oversee the entire school, not individual students. But the justices said administrators have a duty to protect children.
Administrators knew the counselor’s history of sexual misconduct but still hired her, the court found.
The court also said that administrators are liable if they learn of misconduct while an employee is on the job and fail to adequately supervise, train, or fire the employee.
A version of this article appeared in the March 14, 2012 edition of Education Week as Calif. Schools Liable For Hiring Molesters