A former teacher will spend five years in prison after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting a 15-year-old student at Dr. Lena Edwards Academic Charter School in Jersey City in 2015.
The teacher, 36-year-old Lauren Mitchell, began exchanging explicit text messages with the victim during the 2014-15 school year. Later that year, the two began engaging in sexual activity. Mitchell admitted to performing a sex act on the victim at least once.
As part of a plea deal, Mitchell pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child. This plea deal includes five years in state prison and parole supervision for life, along with mandatory registration as a sex offender under Meghan’s Law. She also must give up her teaching license and is banned from working in the public sphere.
Fellow teachers at the charter school reported inappropriate behavior between the teacher and victim during a class trip to Washington, DC. She was arrested in June 2015 and freed on $150,000 bail. The next month, she appeared in court again for allegedly trying to call and text the victim. The judge added $50,000 to her bail during this appearance, which was posted.
Mitchell will be officially sentenced on August 2.
Attorney contributor Brian Kent is a former sex crimes prosecutor who now represents survivors in civil cases. We’ve asked him to add some thoughts on the legal options available to families affected by sexual abuse at school:
Most parents trust the teachers in their community to help their kids learn and develop into well-rounded adults. We all hope that our schools are safe and enriching environments for our kids, but this is sadly not always the case. While the overwhelming majority of teachers are honorable and trustworthy, a few are sexual predators who commit horrible crimes of sexual abuse against students.
When a teacher abuses students, it’s crucial to make sure the abuser is arrested and prosecuted. The victims, their families, and fellow students also must be provided with support for the trauma they’ve suffered. Additionally, it’s important to determine if the school allowed or failed to prevent abuse through negligence.
For example, a school might be considered negligent if they failed to report suspected child abuse to law enforcement. When negligence is found to have played a role in enabling the sexual abuse of students by a teacher, the victims and their families may have grounds for a lawsuit.
If you or a loved one is a survivor of sexual abuse by a school employee and would like to learn more about your family’s legal options, get in touch with one of our experienced sex abuse survivors attorneys for a free consultation.