Niagara Falls City School District Superintendent Mark Laurrie is worried about how Child Victims Act claims will impact the district’s bottom line.  

“It is, potentially, a completely devastating hit to our budget,” Laurrie told Capital Tonight. 

Niagara Falls CSD is considered a high poverty district. There are 23 Child Victims Act cases against the district. Prior to the extension of the CVA look-back window, there were only nine.  

A little history: The Child Victims Act was signed into law in 2019. It provided a one-year look-back window for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to seek justice against their abusers. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the disruption to the state court system, many survivors were prevented from filing within the look-back window, so the Legislature later extended it for a year.

While the Catholic Church has been implicated in many of these lawsuits, there are other institutions that are in legal jeopardy as well, including school districts. 

Dr. Rick Timbs of the Statewide School Finance Consortium called the CVA’s impact on schools “a case of unintended consequences."

“It’s going to be expensive for some districts. These claims go back decades, decades, decades, decades. So, some of the gains that some of these school districts have made in terms of their financial picture…will be exhausted in no time,” Timbs predicted.  

A possible $30 million settlement estimate forced Niagara Falls to do a deep dive into the district’s insurance history. 

“We have completed an archeological dig, a forensic dig of insurance to capture every single potential dollar the district can through insurance savings and we’re still very, very concerned about what the bottom line could be,” Laurrie said. 

Because some of the lawsuits in Niagara Falls go back to the 1960s, there is a mismatch between how much the school might receive in insurance, and possible settlement payouts.

“In the early 60s, having a $50,000 policy was a good amount of money, but the claim and potential settlement and trial could be far in excess of $50,000,” Laurrie said.

Laurrie told Capital Tonight that no one is blaming the victims, but he is concerned that millions of dollars in settlements will be taken directly from the district’s state aid, hurting current students. Instead, he and other superintendents are urging the state legislature to create a fund to assist districts to pay off settlements. 

According to The Buffalo News, there is pushback against the idea.