California Court Ruling Opens the Legal Door for Harassed and Abused Athletes to Sue School Districts, CCS and the CIF .

In a  recent ruling the California Supreme Court held a school district responsible for sexual abuse of a student by one of the school’s counselors. In the court’s final ruling Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar, noted that school principals and other supervisors “have the responsibility of taking reasonable measures to guard pupils against harassment and abuse from foreseeable sources” .

The lawyer for the abused student, Stuart Esner,  noted the ruling will  “allow compensation for people who are harmed and may have a side effect of increasing vigilance.”

This ruling should give school administrators and school districts reason to worry, but students and their families’ reason to celebrate. The stage is set. Finally a complete arsenal of legal definitions and precedent may be in place to give student athletes and their families relief from the harassment, bullying, sexual abuse and denied opportunities that have persisted in high school sports for far too long.

CCS watchdog has repeatedly described a long standing culture that not only provides for abuse , but consistently allows it to be  swept behind closed doors . Enough evidence exists to support that CCS officials , including school administrators , coaches and other supervisors  have had ample opportunity to know the reality of what is going on in our high school sports programs, but have failed to act.  From police and medical reports that support children have been physically abused by coaches, competitors or peers to lost opportunities based on adult mistakes or false claims, the potential legal and financial exposure to CCS and schools districts throughout California is significant.

Individual administrators, coaches, commissioners and other officials should take note as well. If these individuals act badly, act for personal gain, fail to act reasonably, are knowingly skirting the law based on bad legal advice,  they  could have  exposure  and be sued personally .  The coach who hides behind the long accepted “ it is the coach’s decision”  to harass or deny legitimate opportunities  to student athletes without further transparency, the AD who casually dismisses parent complaints  to support their coach,  the administrator who is aware of a toxic sports culture but fails to act based on other priorities  or  school board members who sweep individual cases into private settlements  or continually push these issues back down the chain of command, take note. If a toxic culture exists because the leadership provided for it, everyone in the chain may be held personally responsible, as they should.

Mr. Stuart Esner may be right; the side effect of this recent decision may be increased vigilance. And while such vigilance may ultimately improve high school athletics, it is unfortunate such change will be a result of financial and legal pressure and not because people first chose to simply do the right thing for our student athletes.


About ccswatchdog
Grassroots organization providing information to ensure fairness, transparency and accountability of CIF's Central Coast Section.

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