New Jersey Sexual Harassment Attorneys
It’s becoming a major problem in this age of information. Young people are more immersed in sexual culture at ever younger ages. They know more now at 12 than our generation ever did at that age. And, especially in middle schools, where students lacked the emotional and social maturity to govern their knowledge, kids can use their increasingly complex knowledge of sexual culture to deeply humiliate, ostracize, wound and abuse their fellow students.
Sometimes, this abuse and harassment can take the form of cyber bullying. Other times, the sexual harassment can take on aspects of sexual orientation harassment either alone or in combination with “generic” or “typical” heterosexual sexual harassment.
In-school sexual harassment can take many forms. Although one might infer that the typical model is as it is in the workplace, i.e. young men sexually harassing young ladies, and while that certainly happens, a disturbing feature of sexual harassment in schools nowadays is the marked increase in young ladies either sexually harassing one another or sexually harassing young men.
We find that young ladies have become somewhat sexually aggressive and predatory. If other young ladies do not agree with the sexual opinions, practices, proclivities or inclinations of the harasser and her supporters, these other young ladies are often castigated as “prudes” “Lesbos” or through the use of other names, either attempting to “neuter” the young ladies who don’t wish to be quite so sexually progressive or cast them as homosexual to explain the victim’s reluctance to engage in sexual banter, sexual address or sexual conduct.
Young ladies can also do the same thing to young men who don’t show sexual interest either because the young men are shy or because they have not yet reached an age of sexual maturity where such interests has manifested in them. They also may feel (for their own private reasons) that it is not appropriate to show interest and they are often humiliated, attacked and castigated with homophobic speech for that reason.
School board and school district officials have an affirmative duty under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination to specifically prohibit and prevent sexual harassment in schools of whatever kind or nature. They must develop and promulgate assemblies, school behavioral manuals and other in-class and out of class activities and events to create a “zero tolerance” culture when it comes to this type of conduct, because the cost of failing to deter it is so very high. They also have affirmative duties to respond to complaints when complaints are brought to the attention of school officials, school or district officials, either directly or through guidance counselors, teachers and other in-school professionals. When schools don’t respond, and when schools don’t prevent, they are liable for the consequences.
The cost of failing to prevent this harassment and, even worse, of betraying the students who complains either alone or through his or her family, is depression, social ostracizing, psychological problems, drug use and self-destructive behavior. Suicide is not unknown to middle school students and is on the rise. Child victims don’t often even understand how to express the pain that they feel when they are subjected to this conduct and experience a tremendous conflict between wishing to report what they are experiencing on the one hand, and wishing to “stay strong” on the other, which really means suffering silently. If they’re not taken seriously when they have the courage and their convictions to complain, and if the parents are not taken seriously when they advocate for their children, then something is desperately wrong.
As a student suffers, the school is responsible in both compensatory and, if the school has ignored complaints, in punitive damages. The school must also pay the attorneys’ fees of successful litigants to the extent that cases are proven.
School districts, school boards and school officials all have the same duties as employers have to prevent sexual harassment in their school, just as employers have that duty to prevent it in the workplace.
Costello & Mains is at the forefront of the effort to use the law to prevent, deter and punish sexual harassment in the schools. We are the leading firm in New Jersey doing this work.
If you feel your child at any level of the educational system including elementary school all the way up to and including higher education, has suffered in-school harassment of any kind, you might have recourse under New Jersey law. Contact Costello & Mains at 856-727-9700 to speak to one of our attorneys about your matter.