Reimbursement to School Districts for CVA Settlements
Published on May 23rd, 2023
Memorandum of Opposition
Re: A6201 Brown, K
In relation to reimbursement to school districts for CVA settlements
The above-referenced legislation would authorize the state to reimburse public school districts for Child Victims Act (CVA) settlements or judgments. The New York State Catholic Conference opposes this legislation.
For well over a decade, the New York State Catholic Conference opposed passage of the CVA, with a key argument being that the language of the bill did not amend notice of claim requirements for public entities, thereby rendering the statute of limitations “window” for child sex abuse created by the legislation meaningless in cases where survivors sought to sue public institutions. The original legislation created two classes of victim/survivors – those whose abuse occurred in a private institution would be able to bring a lawsuit no matter how long ago the abuse occurred, while those whose abuse occurred in public institutions would be limited to 90 days.
In 2019, after we again noted this disparity, the sponsors – Senator Hoylman-Sigal and Assembly Member Rosenthal – to their great credit, amended their bill to make clear that the statute of limitations window would apply notwithstanding any notice of claim requirements in law. With this fix, the Catholic Conference removed our opposition to the legislation, which passed shortly thereafter.
Victim-survivors of child sexual abuse deserve recourse, and we were pleased that the bill signed into law leveled the playing field for all. This bill, introduced four years after the CVA, would create a new disparity by reimbursing only public school districts for their CVA settlements and judgments. Presumably, the state would never entertain legislation to reimburse Catholic dioceses (five of which in the state have been forced into Chapter 11) or the Boy Scouts of America (also in Chapter 11).
While the CVA may have been a necessary policy to provide some modicum of long-overdue justice to victim-survivors, there is no question it has had a devastating impact on not-for-profit charities and religious organizations. The men and women who support Catholic parishes and schools are no more responsible for crimes that occurred in the 1960s or 1970s, than are the property taxpayers who support public school districts. Yet this legislation only relieves the financial impact on the latter.
The sexual abuse scandal that engulfed the Catholic Church has caused grave, irreparable harm to innocent children, whose trust was broken in the most heinous of ways. The same is true for those children abused by public school teachers, staff members or administrators. Just as the CVA was only just by being equally applied to all survivors, so too does justice demand that any state protections from the fallout be equally applied.
We urge you to reject this legislation.