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Protect yourself from false accusations of sexual abuse

Teachers and other professionals who work with children often find themselves facing allegations of sexual abuse. A student gets a bad grade and accuses the teacher of misconduct. The teacher explains sexuality in class as part of the lesson, but in the retelling, the information gets misinterpreted.

According to an AP investigation in 2007, in a five-year period, 2,570 educators were punished for sexual misconduct. However, over 10,000 educators were charged with some type of misconduct during the same time frame. About 53 percent of these cases involved a criminal conviction.

Both male and female teachers are vulnerable to accusations. In the AP study, ninety percent of the educators who were punished, most commonly by a loss, denial or suspension of a teaching license, were male. There are things you can do to protect yourself.

  1. Always make sure there are other people around when dealing with a student. If you do need to speak privately with a student, use a soft voice in a public area.
  2. Do not take students in your car unless you have another adult with you.
  3. Never leave your classroom unattended. Send a student to the office if you need assistance.
  4. Keep your home number private. If you do need to speak to a student outside of the classroom, make sure a parent or guardian is present.
  5. Don't change diapers or help a student to the bathroom unless you have another adult present.
  6. Don't use force against a student, except in cases where you need to protect yourself or another student.
  7. Don't use corporal punishment unless you have specific authorization to do so. Follow the guidelines strictly.
  8. Even if you believe you have cause to search a student, do not strip search him or her. The courts have ruled that strip searches violate the Fourth Amendment rights of students.
  9. Before tutoring a student for money, check with the principal and follow the school's policy. Always meet in a public location, such as the library, and keep the parents informed.
  10. Don't meet with students outside of school. Always maintain a professional relationship.
  11. Keep your professional and private lives separate on social media. Check school policy on "friending" students.
  12. Don't act like a parent with your students. You have a different relationship with the kids you coach or teach.
  13. Maintain accurate financial records of all school monies for which you are responsible. Keep good receipts for all income.
  14. Make notes about each class, including discussions that might be later misinterpreted.
  15. Always report suspected child abuse. Follow state law when it comes to reporting abuse.

Our criminal defense attorneys are here to help when you've been accused of sexual abuse. Unfortunately, too many school districts take the theory "guilty before proven innocent." Teachers face damage to their reputation and loss of their position before the allegations are fully investigated. It's important to protect students, but not at the expense of a good teacher's career. Once you've been accused, try your best not to become overwhelmed. Get an experienced legal advocate on your side to help deal with the burden you're facing.

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Sutton Law Group, P.A
7721 SW 62nd Avenue | Miami, FL 33143
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