Have you been abused at school or in any other educational institution?
There is no doubt that we expect our children and young people to be safe at school and in other educational settings. As specialist abuse claims lawyers we still find it shocking that teachers and other staff entrusted with the care and education of our children commit sexual and physical abuse, often against more than one pupil.
What type of abuse happens at school and within education?
Abuse can take various forms and whilst all educational establishments should have procedures in place abuse can and does occur.
Sexual abuse can take the form of a pattern of repeated assaults or a single incident. Sexual abuse does not have to involve force or violence and in schools and educational settings, it often involves grooming, whereby the abuser uses their position to befriend the victim or to trick them into thinking that they are not doing anything wrong.
Physical abuse involves physical assault and can include hitting, punching, kicking, slapping, pushing and shoving. Historically, corporal punishment was acceptable in schools and in educational institutions and there have been many cases where teachers and housemasters used corporal punishment excessively. in which case it can amount to abuse which you may be able to claim for. Corporal punishment was abolished in our public schools in 1986, but not in wholly private schools until 2000. Today no form of physical punishment is allowed or is acceptable.
Bullying and harassment
Bullying in school is a huge problem and one that all parents worry about. It can be verbal, physical, mental or emotional and usually happens between pupils and students. It generally refers to any actions that make another feel unsafe, fearful or unable to participate in school life.
Did you know you may be eligible for compensation from the organisation?
The law is very clear. Where a teacher or tutor commits abuse against a pupil or student the organisation or body that employs the teacher or tutor will automatically be responsible. This principle applies in all educational institutions including local authority-run schools, private and boarding schools and Universities. In the cases of bullying or abuse by pupils or fellow students, the law is a little more complicated, but our specialist solicitors will be able to assess the circumstances and advise you.
What evidence do you need to bring a claim against a college or school?
In order to be successful in your claim for compensation you will need to prove, on the balance of probabilities, that the abuse happened and also that you have suffered damage as a result of this. The damage can be the pain and suffering at the time of the abuse, but also any long-term effects. In order for the employer or organisation to be directly liable we will need to be able to show that the teacher or staff member was acting in the course of their employment.
In cases where a staff member may be acting outside their employment or where abuse or bullying occurred between pupils or students, you may need to demonstrate that the school know or should have known about the abuse or bullying and failed to act. Our team are experts in gathering evidence in these circumstances and will be able to advise you at the outset.
What if the abuse happened a long time ago or the school no longer exists?
This will not prevent you from pursuing a claim. Strictly speaking, your compensation claim should be brought by your 21st birthday, however, the court has the discretion to allow you to bring the claim late. The court will look at your reasons for delaying pursuing the claim and will also look at the evidence that still exists.
In cases where the school or educational establishment has been closed or no longer exists we will take steps to find out who owned or ran the school at the time. We will be able to identify the appropriate local authority. In the case of private schools and colleges, we will identify the company or trustees who were responsible for the school at the time and pursue the claim against them or their insurers.