Child Abuse in Schools and School Settings

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When your child goes to school or takes part in an activity organised by the school, it is the school's duty to ensure they are kept safe from harm.

There has been much in the media over recent years about historical child abuse, but, tragically, we know that child abuse still occurs today. If you are being abused or your child is being abused at school, even if you suspect something is wrong, you should inform the police immediately so that an investigation can take place.

Making a school child abuse claim for compensation

Abuse can take a number of forms:

  • Physical abuse – Including pushing, pulling, striking, shaking, putting someone into a stress position (uncomfortable sitting or standing pose) and any form of physical interaction which causes cuts, burns, bruises, broken bones, and other physical injuries.
  • Sexual abuse – A child under the age of 16, by law, cannot consent to acts of a sexual nature. Any sexual act committed against a minor child is sexual abuse. Sexual activity between older children and school employees (between the ages of 16 and 18) may have occurred as a result of duress or coercion and the abuser may have abused their position of trust. Sexual abuse includes non-contact activities, such as watching or being involved in the production of pornographic materials.
  • Emotional/psychological abuse – Persistent emotional mistreatment, such as humiliation, isolation, threatening the child, and ignoring the child.
  • Neglect – The persistent failure to meet a child's needs. In a school setting, this may mean failure to supervise, failure to provide adequate medical care, failure to protect from harm.
  • Bullying and harassment – Physical, verbal and emotional behaviour which is deliberately intended to be destructive and hurtful, and usually occurring over an extended period of time.

Child abuse can be carried out by teachers, support staff, caretakers and even by other children and it is the school's duty to ensure that the signs of child abuse in schools are identified, monitored and handled in a way that will uphold the child's rights and punish the abuser. This may involve criminal proceedings.

Civil claim for school child abuse

Children who are abused may suffer long-term consequences and problems, both psychological and physical. While a police investigation and criminal proceedings may result in punishment to those who failed your child and, ultimately, will hopefully prevent the harm of other children, the child's personal suffering is not compensated in any way.

By making a civil claim for child abuse compensation with the Thompsons dedicated Survivor Team, we can help you seek justice for your child.

Time limits in Scotland

Sadly, many children do not tell anyone of the abuse when it is happening and it may be many years before they are able to address and attempt to tackle the consequences of the abuse they suffered in school.

For most personal injury claims, there is a three-year time limit from the time of injury, or (if it is later) three years from your sixteenth birthday. However, the Limitation (Childhood Abuse) (Scotland) Act 2017 has changed the rules for childhood abuse claims and in cases where the survivor was under 18 at the time of abuse, there is now no time bar for making a claim (providing the abuse occurred after 26 September 1964).

Vicarious liability in child abuse claims

When a teacher or other person is convicted of child abuse, they will be punished by the court. However, the child's pain and suffering can be compensated by making a claim through the civil courts. Survivors can sue the abuser's employers as the school or local authority has a duty of care to ensure schools are safe places and that all necessary safeguarding measures are in place and upheld.

If a member of staff is abusing a child during the course of their employment, whether this is in the classroom or as a result of a school-related activity, then the employer has vicarious liability for their actions and can be pursued for compensation.

Case study: In a 2021 court case, a teacher from Earlston was found guilty of five assault charges and one further charge of threatening or abusive behaviour against children aged between five and seven years old. The first instance trial in 2020 had resulted in the teacher walking free, but the appeal case, heard in the Selkirk Sheriff Court, saw the successful conviction of the 60-year-old woman.
Following the criminal conviction, the families of the children involved commenced civil claims against Borders Council for its part in the child abuse matter. Thompsons is representing a number of the families in these civil cases. The families felt that the school's responses to their complaints about the teacher's behaviour were not handled correctly and they had to carry out a sustained campaign to bring the matter before the courts.
Find out more on our Thompsons in the News page.

How Thompsons Solicitors in Scotland can help

Talk to Thompsons today about making a school child abuse claim. We will listen sensitively to the details and advise you on the next steps you can take.

All members of our Survivor Team have received specialist training and are trauma-informed so they are able to provide an approach which will provide all the support you and your child need, including support from child abuse charities and, if necessary, we can help you approach the police.

When you make contact with Thompsons, all details will be kept in the strictest confidence. We will treat your case with the utmost sensitivity and there is never any obligation to go ahead with a claim.

Our priority, in all abuse cases, is to ensure the welfare of the survivor and to provide a holistic service which is tailored to their needs. To speak to a solicitor, please call 0800 0891 331or text CLAIM to 78866. Alternatively, please click on the button below to fill in our online contact form, so that we can call you back at a time to suit you.

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