Controversial California Bill Exempts Public Schools from Sex Abuse Lawsuits

California Senate Bill 131, which is ostensibly about protecting victims of child sex abuse, forces private schools to defend claims of sexual abuse as far back as 40 years ago, but exempts public schools from such claims. Because of the Democratic super-majorities in both houses of California, there is no way to stop the passage of the bill.

As Valerie Schmalz wrote in Catholic San Francisco:

The California state Senate narrowly approved a waiver of the statute of limitations for child sex abuse damage lawsuits – a bill that could have a devastating effect on nonprofits including Catholic Charities and Catholic schools while exempting public employers. The legislation, SB 131, would force private schools to defend claims that may be 40 years old but forbid victims from suing any public school for abuse that may have occurred before 2009, the California Council of Nonprofit Organizations said.

She quoted Ned Doleisi, executive director of the California Catholic Conference, adding, "To add insult to injury, SB 131 even protects the actual abuser from being sued – the only claims that are revived are against private employers and nonprofit organizations.”

The bill passed the Senate with 20 Democrats and one Republican favoring it, and nine Republicans and one Democrat against it.

Although a number of California educators oppose the bill, including the California Association of Educators, it is supported by California’s public schools, which educate 92 percent of the children of California and have been shown to have the most sexual abusers of minors in the state.

As National Catholic Register‘s Wayne Laugesen wrote in 2006, a report from the federal government said 422,000 California public-school students would suffer sexual abuse before graduation, far less than the total number of Catholic-school students, which was 143,000.

The bill’s authors are Democratic State Senator Jim Beall, who was Planned Parenthood Mar Monte’s 2011 Legislator of the Year and Democratic State Senator Ricardo Lara. Another supporter has been the California Teachers Association (CTA), which is the largest donor to the California Democratic party. The California Fair Political Practices Commission states: “The CTA alone has spent more money in California politics than Chevron, AT&T, Philip Morris and Western States Petroleum Association combined,” which totals over $200,000,000 from 2000-2010.


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