Monthly Archives: February 2014

False Allegations and Teacher Vulnerability

So it finally happened. I was falsely accused of committing a physical assault against a student by a different student who insisted that last week, for no particular reason, I:

  1. hit this student in the head
  2. grabbed him by the front of his shirt
  3. pulled him out of his seat and
  4. put him firmly into another chair

scared womanRiiiiight. At first he said his friend had told him that. I looked at the friend in front of the class and asked him if this was true. No, said the friend, but my accuser kept nodding. I asked the class if they had witnessed this assault. All 29 of them shook their heads and I heard a few whispered “no‘s”. They looked like deer in headlights.

Down to the principal’s office we went. At first the child said he hadn’t seen it, then he had, then he hadn’t because he had his back turned and was sharpening his pencil. If that doesn’t border on pathological lying (or is pathological lying) I don’t know what does. The thing about this kid is he is a nice kid. He’s never caused problems for me or any other teacher. I was aghast that such an accusation was made against me and particularly from a nice, quiet kid. Now for the first time I get what Churchill meant when he said, “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” I believe this was stated earlier in history by Aesop:Know thine enemy.”  I don’t want to think of the study body as the enemy. I always thought of us as partners in their learning. Now I must be on my guard when I am teaching, a job I thoroughly enjoy and still love. A shame.

This child’s mother arrived at the school later in the day (I was not in attendance). The principal explained this didn’t happen. It was a lie. I don’t know if the mother chose to believe this or not. She didn’t defend him and she didn’t chastise him. I suspect there will be no consequence for this behaviour and that’s precisely what is wrong in the teaching system and the kind of power families have over us (as I mentioned in the previous blog).

I spoke to panic disorder picmy OECTA rep about the situation, distraught as I was. Belinda told me that had the mother wished to pursue the matter Children’s Aid would have been called to the school and I would have automatically been suspended with pay. Seriously. For doing NOTHING. During this suspension CAS would supposedly conduct an investigation, but this can take weeks and weeks. They’re busy, you know. They have better things to do.

When the CAS finishes its investigation there would have been 1 of 2 outcomes:

CAS would determine that the likelihood that the incident occurred was improbable
CAS would determine that the likelihood that the incident occurred was probable

Had the latter been the case I would have remained on suspension with pay. Ah, but that’s not all. Then I would have been brought before the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) for a formal disciplinary hearing. No joke. And this would go into my professional file with the College and with the school board. Even though the entire time I WAS INNOCENT! You have to wonder what goes on in people’s minds when they believe an outrageous accusation such as this one. When a child is the only one confirming that a teacher committed a questionable or outrageous act, and no other student agrees, nor does another teacher in attendance, shouldn’t that raise a red flag for a parent? Thankfully in this case, it did.

bag_of_moneyIn this business you are guilty until proven innocent and the only people interested in proving a teacher innocent is the teacher and the teacher’s union. The school may or may not support the teacher but it bears no weight on the final outcome. Had I been suspended with pay over this false allegation I can promise you one thing: my next move during the suspension would be to secure a lawyer and file a grievance against the family for defamation of character. I’d make sure I got my legal fees paid, at the very least. It wouldn’t be so much that I wanted financial retribution from this family (money always talks) it would be a warning to them and other families in our school community: think twice before you pursue an accusation against a teacher.