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Arbaugh v. Board of Education, County of Pendleton

214 W. Va. 677, 591 S.E.2d 235 (2003)

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Arbaugh v. Board of Education, County of Pendleton

West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals

214 W. Va. 677, 591 S.E.2d 235 (2003)

Facts

Tony Arbaugh (plaintiff) was a student at a West Virginia public school within the Pendleton County school district. Arbaugh alleged that he was sexually abused by a teacher at his school for four years but never reported the abuse to school officials. That same teacher was later convicted of sexually abusing 20 different students at Arbaugh’s school. The school never reported the teacher’s sexual abuse of the students to either children’s services or to the police. The teacher’s pattern of abuse was discovered without input from the school. After the teacher’s criminal conviction, Arbaugh sued the Pendleton County Board of Education (Board) (defendant) in federal district court for failing to report that the teacher was sexually abusing students. Arbaugh alleged that the Board’s failure to report was the proximate cause of that teacher being in a position to sexually abuse Arbaugh. Arbaugh conceded that neither the Board nor the school knew he was being sexually abused by the teacher. The Board was never criminally charged for failing to report suspected abuse. The Board moved to dismiss, arguing that there was no private civil cause of action under West Virginia’s mandatory reporting statute for failing to report child abuse. The federal district court certified a question to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals about whether West Virginia’s mandatory reporting statute implied a civil cause of action for failure to report reasonably suspected child sexual abuse.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Albright, J.)

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