California Appeals Court Overturns Teacher Sex Abuse Case

CaliforniaA California appeals court reversed a lower court ruling that held a 14-year-old should be held responsible for a sexual act with a school teacher because she “consented” to the act.

In its defense during trial, the school district argued that the 14-year-old shared responsibility for the sexual acts and had a responsibility to stop them if she didn’t consent.

“On appeal, the district continues to maintain that a minor student who is the victim of sexual abuse by a teacher bears responsibility for preventing that abuse,” Judge Richard Kirschner wrote. “The district was wrong in the trial court and is wrong now.”

This case brought the issue of “consent” by teenagers into the spotlight in California. California criminal law had been clear that minors cannot consent to sexual acts. But civil law was less clear, which was why the school district could make the ugly argument it made at trial and on appeal.

This summer, the California Legislature passed a law closing that loophole, making it clear that even in civil cases, minors cannot “consent” to sex with adults. That legislative fix only applies going forward and could not undo the result in this trial, which is why the victim had to bring her case to the Court of Appeals.

As a matter of law, common sense, and psychology, a child cannot ever give consent for sexual activity with an adult. This case is especially egregious because the aggressor/perpetrator was a teacher who, like a member of the clergy or a physician, is in a position of trust and authority.

It’s disheartening and disgusting that a school district would use such a defense strategy at trial. Thankfully, the appellate court got it right.

Dumas Law Group has law offices in Portland, Oregon and serves clients in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and other states.

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