Civil Rights Win: Andrea Block Secures Early Confidential Settlement Against School District in Case Involving Sexual Abuse of a Special Needs Student

Founding Partner, Andrea Block, recently secured an early, confidential settlement against a school on behalf of a student with special needs. The settlement came after the student’s mother filed a federal court lawsuit against the school district alleging that the school violated her child’s civil rights under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any school that receives federal funding. The lawsuit alleged that the school left the special needs student unsupervised in a classroom with another student that the school knew to be sexually aggressive, and the special needs student was subsequently assaulted.

Of the win, Andrea said:

This was a really meaningful case to me, personally. When this client and I first connected, she had already spoken to several attorneys who had either told her she didn’t have a case, or that she would need to put down a retainer of several thousand dollars to pursue justice for her child—money she simply didn’t have. When we spoke initially, she told me she just knew that what happened to her child was wrong, and it couldn’t be the case that there was nothing that could be done to hold the school accountable. And she was right. It was so satisfying to tell her that she had come to the end of her long search for help, and I knew how to help her because of my and Aaron’s experience in this area of the law.

The client and I spent a lot of time talking at the outset to help me understand her goals. She was, quite understandably, extremely angry at the school. The ‘right’ thing for many clients when their child is sexually abused is to try to negotiate a monetary settlement prior to filing suit, in order to avoid retraumatizing the child and family and to protect their privacy, or simply for expediency. We could have done that here. In this case, however, the child’s mother wanted the world to know what happened and that she was standing up for her daughter’s constitutionally protected rights.

The day we filed the lawsuit, I could hear in her voice the mother’s pride in knowing that she and her daughter were plaintiffs in a federal civil rights lawsuit that is forever part of the public record and civil rights history. I also felt proud, as I always do when bringing a suit on behalf of a client against the person who abused them, or the entity that allowed or ignored the abuse. I am grateful to this client for giving me the opportunity to stand with her and her child.

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