Virtually all courts recognize that a child abuse reporting statute creates a duty to children, the breach of which is the basis of a civil suit for damages. Normally, courts recognize a duty only to the minor child about whom school officials have received the abuse reports. In 2004, the Supreme Court of Ohio extended this duty to third party student victims. Thus, causes of action may now be brought against school districts when a school employee abuses one student, school officials fail to report the abuse, and the same employee abuses a different student. Public school students who are sexually abused by school persons who have previously abused other students already have the option of bringing a cause of action under section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, or common law negligence theories. This Article argues that the Ohio approach arguably furnishes students with more protection from sexual abuse because school officials faced with an increased threat of civil liability and costly litigation now are more likely to report incidents of sexual abuse to child social services agencies. This article also presents the potential negative repercussions of adopting the Ohio approach and discusses how to limit the detrimental effects.
Jason P. Nance & Philip T.K. Daniel, Protecting Students from Abuse: Public School District Liability for Student Sexual Abuse Under State Child Abuse Reporting Laws, 36 J.L & Educ. 33 (2007), available at http://scholarship.ufl.edu/facultypub/383