Occupational Hazard: False Allegations of Child Abuse Against Educators
By Brian Barrido, Esq. and Jay Mykytiuk
A school custodian was accused of sexual abuse by five girls. The charges were later dropped when the girls admitted that they had fabricated the story because the custodian had reported them for vandalizing a restroom. An Assistant Superintendent jumped off a bridge to his death after being accused of abusing a student. He had been cleared of any wrongdoing earlier that day. A social studies teacher was accused of molesting a student during a school field trip. Eleven months later, his name was cleared when his accuser recanted. A nine year-old girl offered to pay each of her friends one dollar if they would accuse her teacher of abuse.
False allegations of child abuse against teachers and other school employees can be economically, emotionally, and financially devastating. It can lead to criminal prosecution and long jail terms. And it is a real phenomenon. One school administrator claims to receive 10-12 false accusations of abuse against teachers every year. Multiplied across the country, this number is staggering and disturbing.
Sexual Abuse Allegations Used Against Teachers
Because crimes against children are so horrific, naturally accusers are taken seriously. What this means for accused teachers, is that they are usually presumed guilty presumption that can be very difficult to overcome. The most common motive of students who falsely accuse their teachers is to punish teachers who either disciplined them or give them poor grades. A false accusation of physical or sexual abuse will usually ensure that the targeted teacher is, at the least suspended or fired, and at worst, brought up on criminal charges. If an investigation is not properly handled, or the accused educator is not adequately represented by legal counsel, they may lose their careers and their freedom.
Some schools are addressing the issue before the problem arises. School handbooks advise teachers not to have any physical contact with students. Others discourage teachers from ever being one-on-one with a student in a classroom. But despite these precautions, educators remain vulnerable to abuse charges due to the nature of their positions.
Consequences of a Child Abuse Conviction
The consequences of a guilty plea or conviction for physical or sexual abuse are potentially disastrous. Besides substantial jail time, the convicted abuser will lose his teaching license. If convicted of sexual abuse, one must register as a sex offender, and have their name and residence publicly posted. The convicted abuser will be barred from certain types of jobs, and will often be forced to undergo psychological treatment. This adds up to a steep price for simply choosing a career in education.
An educator accused of physical or sexual abuse against a child should seek counsel immediately. A competent attorney will investigate your case, gather character witnesses, and argue your case to the District Attorney. Your attorney should secure expert witnesses in the area of child psychology. In general, it is crucial that your attorney prepare a comprehensive legal strategy to combat the false accusations and prove your innocence.
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