A suspended teacher and former middle school girl’s basketball coach was sentenced to up to two years in prison and 10 years of probation after pleading guilty to sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl and engaging in sexual contact with a 17-year-old girl from her school district.
38-year-old Kelli S. Vassallo pleaded guilty to charges of institutional sexual assault and corruption of a minor in August. On December 27, Lycoming County Judge Marc F. Lovecchio sentenced her in court.
Vassallo admitted to engaging in sexual contact with a 13-year-old girl in June 2013 when she was a coach and to having sex with a 17-year-old girl in 2009.
She will be required to register as a sexual offender for 25 years and perform 100 hours of community service during her probation term. She also must undergo an assessment by a sexual treatment provider and follow all recommendations.
With a background as a sex crimes prosecutor and currently practicing as a civil sexual assault victims lawyer, Brian Kent understands how both the criminal justice and civil court systems can help survivors find justice. We’ve asked him to share his perspective on school district liability for sexual abuse committed by employees:
Sadly, fields that involve working with children are often targeted by sexual predators. These predators gain the trust of their communities in an attempt to shield themselves from the consequences of their horrible crimes. Because of this tragic reality, schools must stay diligent in making sure that no predators are working or volunteering with the school. New applicants must be thoroughly screened and suspected abuse must be reported to law enforcement immediately.
But sometimes, school negligence is to blame for a failure to keep students safe from sexual predators. In these cases, the victims and their families may have grounds for a lawsuit against the school.
If you or a loved one is a survivor of sexual abuse by a coach, teacher, or another school employee, you deserve justice for the trauma your family has suffered. To learn more about your family’s legal options, consider contacting our experienced school sexual abuse law firm for a free consultation.