A Capehart Scatchard Blog

Appellate Division Affirms Dismissal of NJLAD Claim for Sexual Assault on a School Bus

By on June 20, 2022 in Students with 0 Comments

By: Becky Batista, Law Clerk

Editor: Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev, Esq.

On June 13, 2022, the New Jersey Appellate Division issued a published decision on an issue of first impression in C.V. v. Waterford Township Board of Education, where the Court addressed whether the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) applies to claims arising from a sexual predator’s abuse against a young schoolgirl where such conduct was committed on a school bus. Based on the undisputed facts of this case, the Appellate Division concluded that the LAD did not apply because there was no evidence that gender motivated the assault.

This case concerned a five year old female student who was sexually assaulted by a bus aide who was assigned to the bus that took the student to and from school during the 2009-2010 school year. The bus aide was criminally charged, and he pled guilty to first-degree aggravated sexual assault. He was determined to be a compulsive and repetitive sex offender and was sentenced to a prison for sexual offenders. The parents of the student filed a civil complaint asserting negligence and violations of the LAD based on harassment and sexual abuse.

The trial court dismissed the parents’ LAD claim concluding that there was no evidence that the bus aide sexually abused the student because she was female, but instead he acted on compulsions. The court acknowledged that a LAD claim for conduct that occurred on a school bus may be permissible in a school setting but only under the right circumstances. The trial court further held that the “LAD was not intended to stretch to situations such as those present in this case where there is no discrimination and the bus aide would have abused any child on the bus.” The parents entered into settlement agreements resolving the negligence claim, but appealed the dismissal of the LAD claims to the Appellate Division.

The Appellate Division recognized that the LAD protects all persons including minors, that a school bus is “a place for public accommodation,” and that the LAD claim may be based on conduct that violates other statutes, including criminal statutes. However, the Appellate Division disagreed that the LAD automatically extends to a criminal sexual assault committed by a confirmed predator, regardless of the victim’s gender. The discrimination must be “because of” a protected characteristic, and in this case, the bus aide’s actions were the result of his pedophilia directed to all children.

The Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s decision and noted that the LAD was simply not intended to provide a civil remedy for child sex abuse committed by pedophiles and where the victim failed to demonstrate that the conduct would not have occurred but for the student’s protected characteristic.


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About the Author

About the Author:

Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev, Esq. concentrates her practice on the representation of boards of education and charter schools in all areas of school law including: labor and employment, special education, Section 504, student discipline, FERPA, Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, student residency, civil rights, tenure, OPRA, and OPMA. In connection with these representations, she is experienced in handling matters before State and Federal courts, including the Office of Administrative Law. Ms. Dev is an experienced special education litigator and defends school districts in due process hearings from inception through trial. In addition, she has handled matters before governmental agencies, including the U.S. Office for Civil Rights and New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. Ms. Dev routinely conducts training and seminars, drafts policies and manuals, and provides strategic advice to school administrators regarding school law issues. Ms. Dev was recently recognized as one of South Jersey’s Awesome Attorneys as published by South Jersey Magazine. She is licensed to practice law in New Jersey, the District Court for the District of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.


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