When one of your students falsely accuses you of improper conduct, it can be a scary situation. You might be temporarily suspended while the school district and local authorities investigate the accusations. It might involve a lengthy and stressful court battle. Worst of all, even if the court finds that you are innocent, the accusation can have a lasting impact on your reputation and your career.
If a student falsely accuses you of physical or sexual misconduct, your school district or union will often provide an attorney. If not, you will have to find one yourself. Although you are technically allowed to represent yourself in a situation like this, it would be best to seek the expertise of an experienced education law attorney to handle the complex process of preparing and presenting your defense.
What should I do?
There are a couple of key things you should remember to do as soon as the accusations against you surface:
- Be honest. The first thing you should do in this situation is to cooperate in a clear and truthful manner with your attorney. Tell them everything that happened. Your truthful statements are protected by attorney-client privilege. This means that, as long as you are not purposefully trying to deceive the court or threatening to commit a crime, your attorney will keep your statements confidential.
- Gather a list of potential witnesses. Think of any students, teachers or staff that might be able to back you up in the courtroom.
- Stay calm. The Texas Education Agency may take action against you while the lawsuit is in process, such as temporarily suspending your teaching license. It’s best not to panic if this happens to you. Continue to cooperate with your school’s investigation, and follow your attorney’s instructions. Many teachers have been falsely accused by students of misconduct, and have had their teaching positions restored after the allegations are cleared up.
What should I avoid doing?
Likewise, there are some things that can make your situation even worse:
- Avoid the temptation to contact the accusing student. You should not have any contact with your accuser until the situation is completely over.
- Avoid getting rid of any evidence. This might include notes, emails, past assignments or anything else that links you to the student. You want to be able to lay out the nature of your relationship with that student clearly. Your attorney will assist you in determining which pieces of evidence are most useful to your case.
This can be a stressful time, but try not to get discouraged. Although a false accusation can be devastating to your reputation as a teacher, it does not have to be the end of your career.