Passing the Trash

"Passing the trash" is a deeply troubling problem in which institutions, such as schools, sports organizations, or youth groups, allow known or suspected sexual abusers to quietly leave their positions without disclosing their misconduct to future employers. This practice enables sexual predators to move from one institution to another, continuing to work with children and potentially perpetrating further abuse.

The term "passing the trash" originated in the field of education, where it has been a long-standing problem. In many cases, when allegations of sexual misconduct surface against a teacher or school employee, administrators may prioritize protecting the institution's reputation over ensuring the safety of students. Instead of thoroughly investigating the allegations and taking appropriate disciplinary action, they may quietly dismiss the accused employee, often with a neutral or positive reference.

This approach allows the abuser to seek employment at another school or educational institution, where they can continue to exploit their position of trust and authority to groom and abuse new victims. The lack of transparency and accountability in this process creates a dangerous cycle in which sexual predators can move from one institution to another undetected, leaving a trail of traumatized victims in their wake.

The practice of "passing the trash" is not limited to educational settings. It has been documented in various institutions that work with children, including religious organizations, youth sports leagues, and scouting groups. The motivations behind this practice may vary, but they often include a desire to avoid negative publicity, costly legal battles, or damage to the institution's reputation.

In some cases, institutions may prioritize the interests of the accused over those of the victims, particularly if the abuser is a well-respected or high-ranking member of the community. They may minimize or dismiss allegations, characterizing them as misunderstandings or isolated incidents. Some institutions may even go so far as to pressure victims or their families to remain silent, using tactics such as confidentiality agreements or threats of retaliation.
Consequences for “Passing the Trash”The consequences of "passing the trash" are devastating for survivors of abuse. When institutions fail to take appropriate action against abusers, they send a message that the safety and well-being of children are not a top priority. This can leave survivors feeling betrayed, disbelieved, and unsupported, compounding the trauma they have already experienced.

 Moreover, allowing abusers to move from one institution to another without facing consequences enables them to continue their predatory behavior and puts countless more children at risk. Each new institution becomes a hunting ground for the sexual predator, who can continue to exploit their position of authority to groom and manipulate vulnerable youth.
California Laws & Passing the TrashIn California, lawmakers have taken several steps to address the problem of "passing the trash" and protect children from sexual abuse in schools and other youth-serving organizations.

One key piece of legislation is the California Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA), which requires certain professionals, known as mandated reporters, to report suspected child abuse or neglect to designated authorities. This includes teachers, school administrators, coaches, and other youth organization staff members. Failure to report suspected abuse can result in criminal penalties. California has also implemented stricter background check requirements for school employees and volunteers.

In 2017, California passed Senate Bill 820, which prohibits the use of confidentiality provisions in settlement agreements that prevent the disclosure of factual information related to claims of sexual assault, sexual harassment, or sex discrimination. This law applies to public and private institutions, including schools and youth organizations.
Seeking Justice After Sexual AbuseFor survivors of child sexual abuse, the road to healing is long and difficult. But it is a journey that no one should have to take alone. By coming forward and seeking justice, survivors can help break the cycle of abuse and prevent future victims. They can also find healing as they hold their abusers accountable.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of childhood sexual abuse, know that you are not alone. The compassionate attorneys at Cerri, Boskovich & Allard are here to listen, believe, and fight for you on your path toward justice and healing.
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