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K-12 Schools Behind Colleges in Handling Sexual Assault Claims
K-12 Schools Behind Colleges in Handling Sexual Assault Claims

By: Allan M. Siegel

The #MeToo era has been shaped by years of important legal victories, advocacy, and increasing awareness – from the spotlight which shone upon Clinton v. Jones (a case handled by CSCS’ own Partner Joseph Cammarata) to crucial improvements in civil and criminal laws the likes of DC’s recent Sexual Abuse Amendment Act.

The movement has also included considerable changes within the country’s schools, most notably under Title IX, and most publicized at the collegiate level, where sexual misconduct has long been an issue.

Although the U.S. Education Department is looking to again overhaul Title IX rules, the administrative disciplinary process deployed under the federal law have already sparked a significant rise in the adjudication of sexual misconduct claims in the #MeToo years, as well as more reports from students who know there’s a platform for their voices to be heard.

Sadly, the same cannot be said about the handling of sexual abuse and assault cases in K-12 schools.

NYT Highlights Students Traumatic Journeys

A recent article from the New York Times highlights how U.S. schools have long failed to properly address sexual assault and abuse involving our nation’s youngest students, and how newly proposed rule changes could hinder Title IX enforcement by K-12 schools, and allow schools to prioritize protection against liability rather than protecting students from harm and injustice.

In the article, educators and advocates discuss how Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ efforts to overhaul Title IX rules would have major implications for elementary, middle, and high school students. Here are a few of the most important issues:

  • What is Title IX? – Title IX is a federal civil rights law passed nearly 50 years ago. Among other things, it covers administrative policies for publicly funded schools when dealing with allegations of sexual assault, misconduct, harassment, and stalking among students and / or faculty. Amid a number of federal lawsuits, federal officials are looking to amend some components of Title IX to ensure fair and impartial proceedings.
  • Title IX & K-12 – Colleges receive the most attention when it comes to Title IX, despite the fact that there are far more K-12 students in the U.S. and that the Supreme Court decision which expanded Title IX to include student-on-student misconduct arose from a K-12 case. Statistics have shown major leaps in reported sexual violence and misconduct in K-12 systems, but administrators at these schools still shun standards on the basis that issues of a sexual nature are not as “prevalent” or as pressing an issue as they are on college campuses.
  • Proposed Rules & Potential Impact – As the NYT notes, the new rules would apply to elementary and secondary schools, which often have no rules when it comes to the adjudication of sexual assault and misconduct claims. While colleges will have to adjust current procedures when new Title IX rules pass, K-12 schools will need to create most of them entirely – and those schools, described as being “like the Wild West,” are “light years behind colleges” according to Public Justice. Additionally, some of the proposed rules would support ineffective policies already in place, like “live hearings” in which the credibility of accusers and accused can be attacked, and schools’ ability to use of a higher standard of evidence than what’s required in civil claims. Proposed regulatory changes would also only hold schools accountable for violations if they did nothing at all to address misconduct, or if they acted with “deliberate indifference.”
  • Scope of the Problem – With over 98,000 public K-12 schools educating roughly 50 million children (nearly 3x the number of college students), the problem of failing to meet obligations under Title IX are far-reaching. For minors, they can also have a profound impact on students, whose re-victimization by administrators can exacerbate the trauma of their underlying assault. Not only have K-12 schools shown an inability to properly handle allegations, advocates argue, they have also become notorious for engaging in conduct to conceal their ineptitude, often by creating an atmosphere that intimidates victims, and enables schools to avoid potential lawsuits rather than properly addressing claims.

As part of its plans to overhaul sexual assault guidelines under Title IX, the Education Department proposed rules which would require schools to handle complaints that are only “severe and pervasive,” and eliminate specific protocol for handling hostile environments for accusers. According to victims’ advocates, that offers schools an opportunity to decline investigation of claims that don’t implicate events on campus or a school’s programming, and re-victimize students

Advocates and educators challenging the proposed rule changes on the basis they would tie their hands when responding to sexual misconduct complaints are giving federal officials much to think about (over 100,000 comments’ worth to be exact). What the federal government will do with that feedback, however, will be something only time will tell.

Civil Lawsuits & Victims’ Fight for Justice

As educators and officials square off on finding effective Title IX strategies for schools, the fact remains that victims have the right to seek justice and accountability from schools and school systems that fail to protect students, prevent abuse or assault, and properly handle allegations. At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C., our legal team helps victims and their families navigate the legal pathways to achieve just that.

CSCS has experience representing victims of sexual abuse and sexual assault in civil cases against wrongdoers, and the organizations and institutions which failed to uphold obligations for protecting them – including schools, religious entities, and powerful, high-profile figures. Our team is committed to justice and victims’ rights, and is available to help anyone with questions learn more about their options.

CSCS serves residents throughout the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. Call (202) 644-8303 or contact us online to request a FREE consultation.

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Recent Posts
  • K-12 Schools Behind Colleges in Handling Sexual Assault Claims

    By: Allan M. Siegel

    The #MeToo era has been shaped by years of important legal victories, advocacy, and increasing awareness – from the spotlight which shone upon Clinton v. Jones (a case handled by CSCS’ own Partner Joseph Cammarata) to crucial improvements in civil and criminal laws the likes of DC’s recent Sexual Abuse Amendment Act.

    The movement has also included considerable changes within the country’s schools, most notably under Title IX, and most publicized at the collegiate level, where sexual misconduct has long been an issue.

    Although the U.S. Education Department is looking to again overhaul Title IX rules, the administrative disciplinary process deployed under the federal law have already sparked a significant rise in the adjudication of sexual misconduct claims in the #MeToo years, as well as more reports from students who know there’s a platform for their voices to be heard.

    Sadly, the same cannot be said about the handling of sexual abuse and assault cases in K-12 schools.

    NYT Highlights Students Traumatic Journeys

    A recent article from the New York Times highlights how U.S. schools have long failed to properly address sexual assault and abuse involving our nation’s youngest students, and how newly proposed rule changes could hinder Title IX enforcement by K-12 schools, and allow schools to prioritize protection against liability rather than protecting students from harm and injustice.

    In the article, educators and advocates discuss how Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ efforts to overhaul Title IX rules would have major implications for elementary, middle, and high school students. Here are a few of the most important issues:

    • What is Title IX? – Title IX is a federal civil rights law passed nearly 50 years ago. Among other things, it covers administrative policies for publicly funded schools when dealing with allegations of sexual assault, misconduct, harassment, and stalking among students and / or faculty. Amid a number of federal lawsuits, federal officials are looking to amend some components of Title IX to ensure fair and impartial proceedings.
    • Title IX & K-12 – Colleges receive the most attention when it comes to Title IX, despite the fact that there are far more K-12 students in the U.S. and that the Supreme Court decision which expanded Title IX to include student-on-student misconduct arose from a K-12 case. Statistics have shown major leaps in reported sexual violence and misconduct in K-12 systems, but administrators at these schools still shun standards on the basis that issues of a sexual nature are not as “prevalent” or as pressing an issue as they are on college campuses.
    • Proposed Rules & Potential Impact – As the NYT notes, the new rules would apply to elementary and secondary schools, which often have no rules when it comes to the adjudication of sexual assault and misconduct claims. While colleges will have to adjust current procedures when new Title IX rules pass, K-12 schools will need to create most of them entirely – and those schools, described as being “like the Wild West,” are “light years behind colleges” according to Public Justice. Additionally, some of the proposed rules would support ineffective policies already in place, like “live hearings” in which the credibility of accusers and accused can be attacked, and schools’ ability to use of a higher standard of evidence than what’s required in civil claims. Proposed regulatory changes would also only hold schools accountable for violations if they did nothing at all to address misconduct, or if they acted with “deliberate indifference.”
    • Scope of the Problem – With over 98,000 public K-12 schools educating roughly 50 million children (nearly 3x the number of college students), the problem of failing to meet obligations under Title IX are far-reaching. For minors, they can also have a profound impact on students, whose re-victimization by administrators can exacerbate the trauma of their underlying assault. Not only have K-12 schools shown an inability to properly handle allegations, advocates argue, they have also become notorious for engaging in conduct to conceal their ineptitude, often by creating an atmosphere that intimidates victims, and enables schools to avoid potential lawsuits rather than properly addressing claims.

    As part of its plans to overhaul sexual assault guidelines under Title IX, the Education Department proposed rules which would require schools to handle complaints that are only “severe and pervasive,” and eliminate specific protocol for handling hostile environments for accusers. According to victims’ advocates, that offers schools an opportunity to decline investigation of claims that don’t implicate events on campus or a school’s programming, and re-victimize students

    Advocates and educators challenging the proposed rule changes on the basis they would tie their hands when responding to sexual misconduct complaints are giving federal officials much to think about (over 100,000 comments’ worth to be exact). What the federal government will do with that feedback, however, will be something only time will tell.

    Civil Lawsuits & Victims’ Fight for Justice

    As educators and officials square off on finding effective Title IX strategies for schools, the fact remains that victims have the right to seek justice and accountability from schools and school systems that fail to protect students, prevent abuse or assault, and properly handle allegations. At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C., our legal team helps victims and their families navigate the legal pathways to achieve just that.

    CSCS has experience representing victims of sexual abuse and sexual assault in civil cases against wrongdoers, and the organizations and institutions which failed to uphold obligations for protecting them – including schools, religious entities, and powerful, high-profile figures. Our team is committed to justice and victims’ rights, and is available to help anyone with questions learn more about their options.

    CSCS serves residents throughout the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. Call (202) 644-8303 or contact us online to request a FREE consultation.

    Read More
  • What Causes Bike Accidents?

    Although several laws and regulations exist to protect bicyclists’ use of the road and their right of way privileges, accidents still happen. It is estimated that one in 20 bicyclists are injured each year. Learn the common causes of bike accidents and how to protect yourself as a bicyclist on the road.

    Top Causes of Bicycle Accidents

    According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the top causes of injury to cyclists include:

    • Struck by a car.

    • Fell.

    • Roadway in poor condition.

    • Rider error.

    • Collision with fixed object.

    • Dog ran out into cyclist’s way.

    Approximately one-third of bicycle accidents involve a collision with a motor vehicle. Bicycle accidents involving a motor vehicle typically have the most serious injuries and consequences.

    Bike accidents involving motor vehicles usually happen for one of three reasons:

    • Drivers do not watch for or see bicyclists.

    • Drivers do not respect bicyclists’ right to share the road.

    • Bicyclists are inexperienced or uneducated.

    According to the NHTSA, bicycles on the roadway are vehicles with the same rights and responsibilities as motorized vehicles. However, this right of way privilege may not protect bicyclists from getting in an accident with a vehicle. Distracted or intoxicated drivers, defective vehicles, poor visibility, road conditions, and more all contribute to cars striking bicyclists on the road.

    Injured in a Bike Accident? Hire the Right Representation

    If you have been involved in a bicycle accident with a motor vehicle, injuries may not present themselves right away. Some injuries, like traumatic brain injury (TBI), can take weeks or months to exhibit symptoms.

    At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, we are passionate supporters of bicyclists’ rights. We are proud sponsors of Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA), and our team of personal injury attorneys are here to fight for you.


    If you or someone you care about has recently been injured in a bicycle accident that was not your fault, allow one of our personal injury lawyers to review your case. Contact Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. at (202) 644-8303 for a free consultation today!

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  • Recent Bike Events Highlight Cycling Safety

    By: Dan Hausman

    Over the past few years, Washington D.C. has seen a rise in the number of people who use bicycles to get around the city. There are numerous factors that have led to an increase in bicyclists on our streets.

    The Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) has done a tremendous job promoting bicycling and bicyclists’’ rights. The prominence of bicycle ride sharing options has made it easier to use bikes conveniently and without having to worry about in-home storage. Many people have been more focused on healthy living and have made it a point to get exercise on the way to and from work and other locations.  The government of D.C. has also been promoting bicycling as of late as many leaders have endorsed bicycle friendly legislation, engaged in efforts to create protected bike lanes, and have incorporated bicycle safety in the city’s Vision Zero efforts.

    Interestingly, a few bicycle centric events took place over the last week that I wanted to shine a spotlight on in case you missed them.

    Bike to Work Day

    On May 17, Commuter Connections and WABA organized the annual citywide Bike to Work Day. Around 20,000 people participated. 115 pit stops were set up throughout the region and offered free food and drinks and games. The event shared a lot of similarities to the May 8th bike to school day in D.C. This event really encourages people to think about biking to work on a consistent basis as it is fun and shows how easy a commute can be.

    DC Ride of Silence

    Tragically, 5 bicyclists were killed during the last year on the streets of D.C. On May 15th,  Handlebars DC hosted the annual Ride of Silence to “honor the lives of riders injured or killed by traffic violence and remind motorists and public officials that people on bikes have a legal right to public roadways.” A ride of silence took place in hundreds of other cities across the U.S. and the world on May 15th. While D.C. has made strides over the last few years to increase safety for bike riders, we must continue to push for more safety measures.

    DC Bike Ride

    On May 18, DC Bike Ride took place. That ride, now in its fourth year, cleared cars off of 20 miles of D.C. streets for a morning ride. There were also many festive events like a scavenger hunt, workout classes, live music, and food trucks. This event showed off many of the joys of biking.

    CSCS: Fighting for Bicycle Accident Victims

    As always, Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. supports bicyclists and bicyclist rights. Regrettably, sometimes bicyclists are seriously injured at no fault of their own. Over the years, Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. has secured millions of dollars in compensation for victims injured in bicycle accidents across the region, and as a result of the negligence of other people and of government entities, including the District of Columbia and WMATA.

    If you or someone you love has suffered an injury due a preventable crash, please call the firm at (202) 644-8303 for a free consultation.

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  • What Are Bicyclists’ Rules of the Road?

    According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), bicycles on the roadway are vehicles with the same rights and responsibilities as motorized vehicles. They must observe the same rules of the road as cars, and they must be treated by cars as if they were also motor vehicles. Make sure you are well-versed in the rules of the road to ensure your commute is a safe one.

    Where to Ride

    In Washington, D.C., bicyclists should try to ride on the right half of the roadway, but they are not required to be on the very rightmost edge of the road. Bicyclists are entitled to a portion of the lane. When passing or overtaking a vehicle, bikes may go around the left side of the car, just as a typical motor vehicle does when passing.

    Cycling on sidewalks is permitted outside of the DC Central Business District. In areas where bicyclists are allowed to ride on the sidewalk, they must obey the following rules:

    • The bicyclist must not create a hazard.

    • Any person riding a bike upon a sidewalk shall yield right of way to pedestrians, and shall travel at a speed no greater than the posted speed limit of the adjacent roadway, provided that such speed is safe for the conditions then existing on the sidewalk.

    • No bicyclist shall suddenly leave a sidewalk and ride into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield.

    How to Ride

    The District of Columbia requires bicyclists to behave in a certain manner, similar to the regulations motor vehicle drivers are required to operate under.

    • Any person under the age of 16 riding a bike, as an operator or passenger, must wear a helmet.

    • Distracted driving or biking is prohibited where such inattention is caused by reading, writing, performing personal grooming, interacting with pets, using personal communications technologies, and more.

    • Bicyclists may not operate a bike while under the influence of alcohol or any other controlled substance.

    Involved in a Bike Accident? We Are Here to Help

    Bike laws can be confusing, and accidents can happen in the blink of an eye, particularly when vehicles travel at fast speeds.

    If you have been injured in a bike accident, our personal injury attorneys at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel are here to help. We are a proud sponsor of Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA), and we are here to fight for you.

    If you or someone you care about has recently been injured in a bicycle accident that was not your fault, allow one of our personal injury lawyers to review your case. Contact Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. at (202) 644-8303 for a free consultation today!

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  • CDC: Sports, Rec TBI Send Over 280K Children to ER Each Year

    By: Allan M. Siegel

    Today, there’s little secret about the risks of head injuries in contact sports and other forms of recreational activity. Major cases and studies, including the landmark $1 billion NFL concussion settlement, are also raising awareness about just how serious those injuries can be, and what long-term and life-altering effects they can have on victims and families. Now, the CDC is shedding light about how prevalent traumatic brain injuries (TBI) among children – both in sports and other forms of play.

    According to new data released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 283,000 kids in the Unites States seek emergency care in U.S. hospitals and emergency rooms every year for brain injuries arising from sports and recreational activities.

    The report – published as part of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on March 15, 2019 – studied data on child traumatic brain injuries which resulted in treatment at emergency departments across the country between 2010 and 2016, as well as notations from treating physicians which identified sports or participation in other recreation as the underlying cause.

    Some of the study’s most significant findings include:

    • In addition to the nearly 285,000 children who seek ER treatment for sports- and recreation-related (SRR) brain injuries, approximately 2 million kids in total went to U.S. emergency rooms for TBIs stemming from these causes over the study’s 7-year period.
    • Contact sports accounted for nearly half (45%) of all ER visits for SRR traumatic brain injuries.
    • Boys and children between the ages of 10-14 and 15-17 were most likely to sustain sports- and recreation-related brain injuries.
    • Sports and activities which accounted for the most TBI emergency room visits included football, bicycle riding, basketball, soccer, and playing on playgrounds.

    With National Brain Injury Awareness Month just recently ending this type of insight is invaluable to spreading awareness about the prevalence and risks of traumatic brain injuries, especially among vulnerable children whose futures can be altered permanently and profoundly by such injuries.

    According to experts and previous studies, 70% of all ER department visits involving sports- and recreation-related TBIs involve children. Because children have thinner cranial bones and nervous systems which are still developing, they may face increase risks for brain injuries – including injuries which can have far-reaching effects on their cognitive, emotional, and physical health, and their development.

    Data like this has been an important motivator for educational campaigns promoting proper prevention and protection efforts in youth sports, including HEADS UP techniques and other measures that include:

    • Adopting rule changes to limit player-to-player collisions;
    • Employing policies which require immediate removal, evaluation, and reporting after children suffer head injuries;
    • Teaching young athletes strategies which reduce impacts to the head and risks for TBI; and
    • Identifying young athletes with increased risks for TBI through pre-participation examinations.

    You can learn more about the CDC HEADS UP initiative here.

    Although parents, coaches, schools, and sporting organizations can do a lot to protect children, history shows us widespread change to long-standing practices rarely comes without changes to the law. That’s a large part of why CSCS Partner Joseph Cammarata drafted the Youth Athletic Concussion Protection Act of 2011, which became law in the District of Columbia.

    Among the first comprehensive legislative measures in the country designed to protect young athletes from brain injuries, the Act implemented important new rules for schools and youth sporting organizations throughout the District. Among them are special procedures for removing children from during practice or play after their suffer head injuries, reporting and return-to-play requirements, training for prevention efforts, resources for parents and the public, and more.

    Committed to Protecting the Rights & Futures of Brain Injury Victims

    Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. has a long history of fighting for brain injury victims and their families, and has been distinguished as “Preferred Attorneys” for the DC Metro area by the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA).

    We know brain injuries – from concussions in car accidents to the most severe injuries sustained in falls, workplace accidents, and commercial trucking accidents – can upend the lives of victims, subject them to long recoveries or life-altering disabilities, and create tremendous physical, emotional, and financial setbacks. As civil trial lawyers, we take pride in fighting for the compensation victims and families need when their injuries are caused by the negligence of others.

    If you have questions about a brain injury case anywhere in Washington, D.C., Virginia, or Maryland, please call (202) 644-8303 or contact us online.

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  • NTSB: Failed Gas Regulator, Vent Line Caused Flower Branch Apartment Explosion

    By: Dan Hausman

    7 people were killed, 65 residents were forced to local hospitals and medical centers, and three firefighters were injured because of the August 10, 2016 explosion and resulting fire in Silver Spring, Maryland at the Flower Branch apartment complex.

    Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. and a handful of other area law firms filed lawsuits on the behalf of victims of the explosion in an attempt to secure justice and compensation.

    The Flower Branch apartment complex cases were consolidated and many are currently pending together in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland with a trial set to start in December of this year.

    Over the last couple of years, the parties involved in the Flower Branch apartment complex cases have been busy filing papers with the court, gathering documents and taking depositions of witnesses to better understand the facts surrounding the explosion, and preparing for trial.

    New Update Provides More Insight

    The federal government had also been trying to figure out what happened at the Flower Branch apartment complex on August 10, 2016; the National Transportation Safety Board, an independent Federal agency charged by Congress with investigating pipeline incidents and other significant accidents, had been examining the explosion for two and a half years. The NTSB is tasked with determining the probable cause of incidents and issues safety recommendations aimed at preventing future incidents.

    On Tuesday, April 23, 2019, the NTSB held a public meeting in which it determined the failure of an indoor mercury service regulator with an unconnected vent line was the probable cause of the August 10, 2016 explosion and apartment fire in Silver Spring, Maryland. The NTSB found natural gas leaked into the service room because of the unconnected vent line and failed service regulator, accumulated in the service room until it reached explosive levels, and ignited. The NTSB also issued 13 safety recommendations, with five safety recommendations issued to Washington Gas, as a result of the incident.

    The safety recommendations, for example, requiring all new service regulators be installed outside, will surely help prevent another incident if implemented. But, the recommendations do not help victims of the explosion receive fair compensation for all that they have endured. It is the attorneys that represent the victims, including the attorneys of Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C., that seek to secure justice and compensation for the victims and to hold the defendants fully accountable for their failures and liable for the damages the victims suffered.

    Our blog will continue to cover the explosion and resulting civil cases in Montgomery County, Maryland. This tragedy can’t be forgotten.

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