In 2015, the Fourth Circuit heard Doe v. Rosa, in which the parent plaintiffs sought to extend civil liability to the Citadel’s president, for failing to protect their minor sons from sex abuse inflicted by one of the Citadel’s employees. In dismissing the matter, the Fourth Circuit followed precedent set by the Supreme Court years ago in Deshaney. This interpretation of Deshaney, however, is no longer valid in light of the growing number of sexual misconduct cases involving educational institutions. Strictly applying Deshaney encourages schools to place their interests higher than the security of their students. In fact, other circuits have already reinterpreted Deshaney in this context. Although Doe suffered from causation problems, an alternate legal interpretation would better protect young people and would hold institutional actors liable when they are aware of sexual misconduct within their walls. Until the Fourth Circuit rethinks the general duty that schools have to appropriately protect their students and the public, the number of sex scandals and cover-ups in the jurisdiction will proliferate.
Dale Margolin Cecka. It’s Time for the Fourth Circuit to Rethink Deshaney, 67 S. C. L. Rev. 679 (2016).