Sexual Misconduct by Clergy and Church Workers – Part 5

A federal court in Kansas ruled that a school was not liable for a teacher’s sexual molestation of a child.

Church Law and Tax 2003-05-01

Sexual Misconduct By Clergy and Church Workers

Key point 10-07. A church may exercise reasonable care in selecting ministers or other church workers but still be responsible for their misconduct if it “retained” them after receiving information indicating that they posed a risk of harm to others.

* A federal court in Kansas ruled that a school was not liable for a teacher’s sexual molestation of a child because it was aware of nothing in the teacher’s past suggesting that the teacher might engage in such behavior. A 12-year-old boy (“Josh”) was sexually molested by a female aide (“Andrea”) to a public school teacher. Andrea’s 11-year-old son became acquainted with Josh, and on many occasions over the course of the summer Josh spent the night at Andrea’s home to be with her son. Andrea engaged in sexual contact with Josh on a number of occasions, but none of these incidents occurred on school property or during school hours. Andrea was later charged with rape and sent to prison. Josh’s mother sued the school, claiming that it was responsible for Andrea’s acts on the basis of negligent retention and supervision. The court noted that liability for negligent retention or supervision results “only if the employer had reason to believe that an undue risk of harm would exist because of the employment.” It concluded that the school could not be liable because Josh’s mother failed to produce any evidence that school officials knew or should have known that Andrea presented a risk of sexual contact with children. It observed, “In short, nothing from Andrea’s past … gave any indication that she was a risk to her students. Because such knowledge of an employee’s risk or propensity is a required element of plaintiff’s cause of action, the court grants defendant’s motion for summary judgment.” Kurtz v. Unified School District, 197 F.Supp.2d 1317 (D. Kan. 2002).

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