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Seventh Circuit Finds that School District is not Liable for Sexual Harassment by a Former Teacher

K-12 Education Publications

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, in Jane Doe-2 v. McLean County Unit District No. 5, recently rejected the claim of a Urbana School District student that McLean School District was responsible for the sexual harassment perpetrated against her by a former McLean School District teacher. The student alleged that McLean School Districtofficials assisted the teacher in securing a job at Urbana School District despite knowing that he had sexually harassed several students while teaching at McLean School District. 

The Court ruled that the student’s claim was too attenuated to state a valid claim under either Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a) or Illinois tort law. The Court found that McLean School District lacked the requisite control over the teacher once he was teaching in another school district to support liability under Title IX. Similarly, the Court found that McLean School District was not legally responsible for protecting the Urbana School District student. The Court also confirmed that the Illinois Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Abuse Act (ANCRA) does not support a stand-alone, private tort action. Therefore, the student was not able to rely on McLean School District’s alleged failure to report abuse to support her tort claim. 

The McLean decision highlights the significant legal issues presented when an abusive teacher leaves one school district bound for another.