LA Schools Blame Girl for Sex with Teacher

LA Schools Blame Girl for Sex with Teacher December 1, 2014

What is remarkable to me is how all institutions, regardless of whether they are secular or Church, seem to manifest the same kinds of butt-covering responses which aim to deny, deflect, and detract the victim instead of forthrightly deal with the issue.

Defenders of the Church love to point to stories like this and say, “See!  Public schools do this stuff too!”  The thing is public schools do not claim to be the sacramental presence of Jesus Christ, the light of the world, and the means by which all men, women and children are to be saved.  The Church does.

It is a beautiful thing that God has chosen to mediate his salvation to us through ordinary human things like water, bread, wine, oil, and flesh and blood human beings.  I love that the Church is, among other things, a thoroughly human thing made of thoroughly human beings.  But it is a great tragedy that the Church allows herself to behave as nothing more than human when she is called by Christ to be a communion of saints.

The world, at some level, feels the scandal of this, which is why it expects more of–and metes out much harsher condemnation to–the Church than to the LA school district.  Catholics can complain all they like about the double standard, but at the end of the day the ordinary person is right here: Those to whom much is given, much will be required.  The Church cannot respond to sin in its midst–especially sin this horrendous–with butt-covering indistinct from how every other human institution responds.  It has to do better.

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  • IRVCath

    Well, this is a civil case against the district as employer, so legally, the lawyers might be stating the law correctly (in that, because taking action that contributes to one’s injury at least severely vitiates the compensation due the wronged party, and that, IIRC, there is federal-court precedent which states that for civil (NOT criminal) purposes, under some circumstances a minor can be deemed to consent to sex in some circumstances, there might be an argument that under tort law, the district might not be liable for the abuse).

    It’s a reprehensible way to get out of paying it (presumably the district also argued that, reasonably, sex with minors occuring off school property isn’t within the scope of employment and thus they can’t be liable for the damage caused – remember, most of the priest sex abuse cases got dinged mostly for covering it up, while a cover-up doesn’t seem to be at immediate issue here). But it seems there is a good argument to be made that in fact the (human civil) law is on the side of the District on this.

    It’s an immoral defense, and any lawyer who tries this should be ashamed of themselves, but it might very well be legally sound.

    I will also note that apparently the attorney responsible for raising this defense was, for obvious reasons of basic human decency, subsequently dismissed as counsel by the District.

    • jroberts548

      Assuming his legal argument is correct, why would the lawyer be ashamed? Did the lawyer write the law? Did he pass it? Did he vote for the state legislators who did? The lawyer’s job isn’t to unilaterally fix public process. It’s to represent his client’s interests. The lawyer shouldn’t be ashamed of himself for the failings of the California voter.

      • The lawyer’s first job is to seek justice under the law. I understand that a lawyer in the U.S. legal system has a responsibility to represent the client’s interests, but this responsibility is subject to the higher duty to serve the natural law – whether the civil law acknowledges it or not.

        So, a lawyer should refrain from using unjust laws, or from using laws in unjust ways. If this means the client is unhappy, the lawyer can simply pass on the client. A lawyer who advocates for a client in an unjust way should indeed be ashamed of his/her actions – not ashamed before the judge at the bench, perhaps, but certainly ashamed before the Judge of Souls.

        • jroberts548

          But it’s only the law that would impose on the school district a duty to pay. If the California law recognizes that a minor’s consent can be effective for civil liability purposes, and it’s only California law that imposes civil liability on the district in the first place, why shouldn’t the lawyer raise it? The plaintiff’s right is created by positive law, as is the defendant’s defense.

          A lawyer’s job isn’t to unilaterally seek justice.* We have an adversarial system. It only works if everyone is vigorous about asserting their legal rights. A lawyer who doesn’t raise legally valid arguments isn’t serving the interest of justice so much as he’s helping the other side extort money from his client. As one of my professors put it, it’s easy to be moral with someone else’s money, but that’s not the lawyer’s job.

          *There are caveats, like the crime-fraud exception. Additionally, lawyers are encouraged to give clients advice about the extra-legal (including moral) implications of whatever issue the client is seeking advice on. For both moral and reputational reasons, the lawyer here probably should have advised the district to settle.

        • IRVCath

          Also, there were ways the lawyer could have achieved the same conclusion without doing something immoral. And remember, the client in this case was unaware of this conduct, and when they found out they dismissed the lawyer.

  • Joseph

    “Defenders of the Church love to point to stories like this and say, “See! Public schools do this stuff too!” The thing is public schools do not claim to be the sacramental presence of Jesus Christ, the light of the world, and the means by which all men, women and children are to be saved. The Church does.”
    Yep, my sentiment exactly. The Church deserves the flak it receives specifically because of this. I take no offense to it. We should strive to correct our errors and not complain when they are discovered and highlighted.

  • Dave G.

    Those who tried to point to other scandals to excuse the Church were obviously wrong. Others, however, did so to counter the pop media notion that sex abuse only happened in the Church and nowhere else. Or to counter the idea that sex abuse was because of priestly celibacy. So not all who appealed to ‘they do it’ were trying to get the Church off the hook.

    But I’m sure there were some who tried to excuse the Church. Or they didn’t get the higher standard that people expect from the Church. And FWIW, I think it’s true with more than just the abuse scandal. Appealing to ‘ah shucks, we’re all just crazy sinners’ doesn’t cut it for most people who, ultimately, are expecting more from Catholics and the Catholic Church. And rightly so.

  • SteveP

    Mark: the OP below has a far better read on this than you have managed. You might do better to rail against the Western “I’m a victim, pay me!” attitude in the origination of the lawsuit.

    • Andy

      I see nothing in Mark’s presentation that deals with ” the Western “I’m a victim, pay me!” attitude” – I see a statement about ducking responsibility and about blaming the victim – a time-honored approach in many of these cases, though not terribly moral.

      • SteveP

        Yeah, the time honored approach is “conserve the cash”. Those who say otherwise are fooling themselves about their own propensity to eliminate or, at least, reduce liabilities.

        • Andy

          There is a difference between reducing liabilities and blaming the victim, especially a middle school student. Reduction of liabilities comes before the event, at least for me, blaming the victim comes after the event. To me the issue is an institution – church or school or hospital or whatever in an effort to “conserve the cash” refusing to accept responsibility and foisting it off to the victim.
          Reducing liabilities for me comes before – it comes in planning and in maintaining standards; it comes in hiring. promotion and firing. I don’t see that as a bad thing.
          Maybe I am not understanding what you mean?

    • jroberts548

      Assuming she’s a victim, what’s wrong with her being entitled to payment? If the school district doesn’t want to pay out in cases like this, they should stop hiring perverts.

      • SteveP

        If you want to profit from victimization, I’d suggest you change the law from imprisonment to servitude.

        • jroberts548

          Who’s trying to put the school district in prison? How would you even put a school district in prison?

  • MB

    In a similar situation, our Catholi High School absolutely fired the ( female) teacher, and even though the student was 18, the teacher was convicted of abuse because of her position of ” authority”. It destroyed the married teacher’s family. The victims family did not blame the church, the church did not “cover it up.”

    On the other hand, many of us know clergy who have been wrongly accused based on no evidence ( but because someone has jumped on the lawsuit bandwagon), but they cannot fight the charge and neither can the church, because they’ll be seen as “buut-covering.” This breaks my heart as well.

    Your statement, Mark, that ALL institutions are the sane with their” butt- covering” responses, is a rash one at best, and serves no useful purpose in the dialogue.

    • petey

      many of us know clergy who have been rightly accused, too.

  • BobRN

    Mark, have you received a number of contacts from Catholics pointing to this case in an effort to defend the Church? Any “defender” of the Church who would “love” to point to a story about a child being abused by anyone is a sicko.

    The world has a right to expect more of the Church than it does of the secular world. And, the world does get more from the Church than from the secular world. Even in the case of child abuse, the numbers aren’t even close. The most reliable sources indicate that the numbers of children abused by employees of the public schools systems is over 29,000 a year. Compare that with the over 10,000 victims abused by priests over the last half-century. Plus, the Church actually responded to the crisis by implementing reforms (and long before the story broke in the news in 2002). In the last decade the number of new cases brought against priests has averaged about six a year. The public schools mostly still refuse to even admit the problem, much less implement reforms, so there’s been no comparable decrease in the number of cases. This should alarm everyone, not just Catholics. These are our children, and these schools are supported by our taxes. My Catholic kids go to public schools, so you bet I’m just as outraged by abuse at the hands of public school teachers, and more outraged that the public schools and the media don’t seem to give a rat’s patooty about he problem. This case in LA could set a precedent across the country, putting my kids at far greater danger than they are from any priest.

    I don’t think Catholics have a problem with the outrage people have toward the Church in light of the abuse scandal. Catholics are more outraged than anyone. I think it’s the selective outrage that angers Catholics, i.e.: the implication that abuse occurs only in the Church, the willful ignoring of abuse that occurs in other institutions, the refusal to recognize the progress the Church has made in reforming. These are legitimate concerns, and pointing them out doesn’t necessarily imply an unwillingness to recognize and address the horror in the Church. It’s not an either/or, but a both/and.