What to do about false allegations of abuse against teachers?

Click for Education Canada.

Traditionally, there were more female teachers than male. However, over the past thirty to forty years, that changed as more males entered the profession — a good thing because it meant students were exposed to role models of both sexes.

Yet, all those gender gains could disappear because of the recent increase in false allegations of sexual or physical abuse against male classroom teachers (although there have been recent female situations as well).

Imagine this type of scenario:

A high school teacher is at his desk in his homeroom classroom. It is the end of the school day and he is preparing for the next day. All of a sudden, the Principal and Vice-Principal (and possibly even the police) walk into his room. He is told he is under arrest and being relieved of his duties because a couple of girls have accused him of sexual impropriety. He is speechless. Surely, after teaching two or three decades, the authorities know that can’t be true. But, of course no one can know that for sure, can they?

Plus, the bottom line is the school administrators must take the word of the students involved, a reality we all accept. But, of course, that is in the abstract. What if it happens to you, your husband, your brother, a friend? When you and everyone around you “wants to” believe you are innocent, what the heck do you and they do? Where do you turn? You have been placed on unpaid leave. Where do you get the money to keep on living when no income is coming in? Where do you get the money to pay for a lawyer? Then, months later, the entire case is thrown out because the girls have recanted, admitted they lied. Then, even when you are acquitted, how many parents will always have doubts about you?

Yes, that story is made up. But, it is unfortunately happening all too often today. Ask any male teacher and they will tell how that potential scenario haunts them. The worst thing is the consequences of such false allegations.

  1. Gone are the days when a primary teacher on yard duty can allow a young child to run up to them and hug them.
  2. Gone are the days when a male teacher can pat a female student on the arm in congratulations.
  3. In fact, gone is any measure of warmth at all.

Of course, there is another even more serious potential consequence — that children and young people who really “have” been abused by a teacher, will not be believed.

I sure don’t know the answer to this issue as I believe the wisdom of Solomon is needed, but I believe we could start with the presumption of innocence. Plus, either the teachers’ unions or the school boards (who are the employers afterall) could provide professional liability insurance to each teacher so that legal costs can be covered in the event of allegations or charges of any kind while on-the-job.

For those who have any doubts that children don’t lie or exaggerate, I would recommend they read this Education Canada article  (H/T JNW) by Jon Bradley, a professor in the Faculty of Education at McGill. He writes about Henry Fournier, a man who had taught for thirty years and whose life was nearly ruined because of false allegations. Plus, the fact that Fournier ended up back in the same school he was at when the allegations surfaced in the first place seems the ultimate abuse, for everyone involved.

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Endnote: Here also is a situation in New York City involving harrassment by students — a type of reverse sexual abuse (H/T JNW). C/P JNW.

4 thoughts on “What to do about false allegations of abuse against teachers?

  1. My only experience with this has been, a male teacher, adored for several years by all his band/fine arts students and parents,abused (inappropriate relationships) female students at his subsequent schools.
    In my example, there were kids that wondered and in retrospect, some of them expressed to a parent an odd relationship developing with his victim but because he was an icon, no one revealed these private conversations with their observant child to authorities. (Jr high- under 14 yrs old)

    It wasn’t until he abused a Senior that he was outed and this occurred after the younger victim was herself a Senior in another school.

    I agree, if a child uses anger to get back at a teacher, that behaviour is deplorable and there should be some tools in place to have an adult deemed innocent until proven guilty but should we not look at the system entirely?

    Kids can accuse parents and teachers instantly believe, kids can accuse teachers and authorities instantly believe but the truth is, A victim of abuse is so often, so ashamed that they don’t speak out the way the system has implied. Especially a child that has been truly abused.
    They will hold it in and there are certainly signs which imo the teachers, administrators, guidance councillors and especially social workers of this day and age ARE NOT qualified to access. They have all become a ‘react first’, inept group of kooks.

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    • Great analysis Bec. Absolutely right on. Abused children do not come out aggressively about their abuse like you say. I know of a situation as well and it went on for years. It was only when a Gr 8 had graduated and made a complaint once out of the school, that up to a dozen other girls came forward, most in their last years of high school or even beyond.

      I also thought of that young Ontario father who was dragged through the mud because his child had drawn a picture of a gun on a white board. Way over the top. In these instances, their lives are forever affected.

      Is it not in line with false allegations of any kind, even rape? Feminists used to say women don’t lie. Unfortunately, they do. Also, as you say, officials over-react even without some kind of confirmation or proof of wrong doing.

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  3. I think one lesson (of the story you point to in the Education Canada article) is that the legal system has to work much faster. It’s ridiculous that these things will take years to resolve themselves.

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