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TACOMA: Teacher’s accuser needs to be investigated, too

Letter by Djana O. Milton, Lakewood on July 9, 2012 at 3:02 pm with 43 Comments »
July 9, 2012 3:02 pm

Local Tacoma teacher Keisha Shaw has been charged with five counts of child rape (TNT, 7-7). It is certainly possible, if not likely, that supporting evidence against Shaw as published in The News Tribune and other media is incomplete. What has been made available, however, seems rather lean.

Recent stories such as that concerning Jerry Sandusky, and Mary Kay Letourneau before him, remind us of the importance of hyper vigilance where adult conduct around kids is concerned. Still, it is undeniable that many people have been unjustly sentenced to life in prison for crimes they did not commit, based on little more than the word of an accuser.

While many teachers are standing before classrooms today who simply should not be there, significant numbers of young people also bring troubles of their own to school, thanks to inattentive parents or the otherwise dysfunctional households from which the students hail.

In the course of investigating Shaw for the crimes of which she stands accused, one can only hope that an equal, if not greater, level of diligence has been done as it pertains to the background and psychological state of the young man who made the accusations.

A woman’s future and freedom are at stake. A legitimate desire to avoid repeating the mistakes of others is not sufficient cause to rush to judgment now. If available evidence truly boils down to a case of “he said/she said,” the accuser must prove to be someone who can and should be taken at his word.

Leave a comment Comments → 43
  1. Fibonacci says:

    wow–“an equal, IF NOT GREATER, level of diligence has been done as it pertains to the background and psychological state of the young man”. Are you serious? Don’t get me wrong, I know that kids accuse teachers of things they did not do as some sort of payback, and yes, evidence does need to be corroborated here, but you make it sound like there needs to be more investigation of the kid than of the teacher. In case you forgot the two names you brought up, Jerry Sandusky and good old Mary Kay Letournea were both guilty.

  2. Theefrinker says:

    I agree Djana. It would be nice if that whole “innocent until proven guilty” thing was taken seriously for once. Unfortunately media has the biggest hand causing the opposite effect.

  3. Dave98373 says:

    This entire case was investigated by law enforcement…which resulted in charges being filed. Djana- Do you seriously believe that a mere allegation by a victim would result in one being charged? All evidence and testimony was gathered prior to any charge(s) being filed. This fact alone, that there is enough evidence to bring a teacher (male or female…which I don’t see the difference) to be charged in the first place is evidence of due diligence on behalf of the prosecuting attorney.

  4. “it is undeniable that many people have been unjustly sentenced to life in prison for crimes they did not commit, based on little more than the word of an accuser”

    Many people? give me 5 cases

  5. cclngthr says:

    What I find; more common where a male victim is the accuser, the victim is not to be believed. If the accuser were a female, the accuser would be believed more; just because society assumes males are a sexual agressor. Some even believe males cannot be raped.

    Statistics show that 1 in 3 females and 1 in 6 males are raped. These numbers reflect reported cases. When we factor in unreported numbers, sexual assault centers believe the number of males who are molested are higher than the reported number of 1 in 6 males.

    If Shaw did not do it, she likely would not be facing 5 separate rape charges. The prosecuting attorney filed the charges because he believes there is enough evidence to convict Shaw of the rape charges. IF the evidence is not sufficient he would not have filed the charges.

  6. cclngthr says:

    What Milton does not consider, is how OSPI Office of Professional Practices has on the issue. Legally, they can ask questions through civil law about the accusation and make a decision that includes suspending, or revoking the certificate of the teacher. This goes beyond the scope of criminal law that does not have the threshold of beyond a reasonable doubt. Civil cases do not have this.

    Look at the case of Michael Moulton, who was charged of 4th degree assault, and his actions to keep his teaching certificate. He was accused of inappropriate touch and inappropriate interaction. He insisted he did not commit the offense, and should be able to keep his certificate. He had repeated offenses as early as 1999. He had his certificate suspended due to lack of moral conduct and professional fitness.
    http://www.k12.wa.us/profpractices/investigations/ActionTaken/AgreedOrderofSuspensionMoultonM1.pdf

  7. alindasue says:

    jrdndd said, “Many people? give me 5 cases”

    How about well over 200 cases:
    http://www.innocenceproject.org/

    Those are just the cases where they were able to obtain DNA materials for later testing. Some still sit in prison because there isn’t DNA evidence available to prove their innocence.

    cclngthr,
    If the prosecutor having “sufficient grounds to press charges” is enough proof to assume guilt, then why do we even bother with the court system, eh?

    You say, “IF the evidence is not sufficient he would not have filed the charges.” However, enough people are charged and found not guilty by the courts examining the evidence to easily blow massive holes into that statement.

    A person is not guilty until and IF the evidence displayed in court proves that he or she is guilty. Period. An accusation is not the same as a guilty verdict, no matter how much you may assume otherwise.

    I followed your link to the case of Michael Moulton. I found it interesting and somewhat frightening that Mr. Moulton was badgered into an Alford plea and his license suspended by OSPI despite the fact that according to the document:

    “50. On March 2 and 3, 2010, an administrative hearing was held regarding the termination of Michael Moulton’s employment with the Morton School District.

    51. On April 13, 2010, Hearing Officer Joseph M. Mana, Jr. issued his decision. Mr. Mana concluded that sufficient cause for Michael Moulton’s dismissal had not been shown by a preponderance of the evidence and directed that Michael Moulton be restored to his position as a teacher in the Morton School District.”

    The entire case that Mr. Moulton lacks “Good moral character and personal fitness” seems to be based only on the fact that he was accused and not on any actual hearing or court findings…

    …and this is the same OSPI that sets the standards for what our children are learning about civics and history in their classrooms. I, for one, find that very frightening.

  8. alindasue: thanks for the info, should have been more specific…5 cases of teachers

  9. alindasue says:

    jrdndd,

    I think it’s safe to assume that the cases of teachers pretty much follows percentage proportional to the rest of society…

  10. BigSwingingRichard says:

    What you are asking for is exactly what prosecutors do when deciding to charge someone with a crime. All evidence is evaluated including the veracity of witnesses. Just because you have not interviewed to accuser does not mean they are not truthful and an actual victim.

  11. commoncents says:

    Not saying she is innocent or guilty – the facts will come out at trial but the net is littered with false accusations against teachers and others alike (male and female). Police do make mistakes in their investigations…it happens. Hopefully the courts get it right but not always. Are we so far removed from the Wenatchee trials that we don’t acknowledge the possibility that it could be a false accusation?

  12. normajean says:

    @Jrdndd – Why do you want 5 cases of teachers. Why not 5 cases of similar charges. I totally agree with commoncents. The courts don’t always get it right. Anyone can make a false claim & the next thing you know that person is in cuffs at the police station. It does happen often in divorce cases where 1 spouse accusers the other for gain. I have seen this 1st hand & it is devastating for the person wrongly accused. Once the accusation is out there even if not proven, reputations are destroyed. I am all for justice but yes both parties have to be thoroughly investigated. As my stepdaughter said to her brother “If you don’t give me what I want, I will call the police & tell them that you accosted me” So easy to do.

  13. This letter reminds me of the old practice of putting victims of rape on trial – exploring their sexual history – in order to get the rapist off free (the old…they were asking for it…defense).

  14. cclngthr says:

    alindasue,
    OSPI and the Stats Board of Education sets the standard of moral character and personal fitness. Accusations, either true, or false can result in suspension of the certificate based on the issues surrounding it, and how parents feel about having a teacher who has been accused of misconduct in the classroom.

    The code of professional conduct:
    http://www.k12.wa.us/ProfPractices/CodeConduct.aspx

    can be interpreted widely based on the administration and who files a complaint. Usually superintendents are the ones who file complaints, but parents can too.

    With Moulton, and what was reported in the paper (lest you forgot), it was reported he continually touched kids and continued to do so after written reprimands were sent to him. The state suspended his certificate based on these public complaints he continued to touch kids and the backlash that was created. The written repremands he had since 1999 and his failure to follow that directive(s) is grounds to suspend the certificate; and also terminations from employment.

    Should teachers even consider touching kids these days? In my opinion, no they should not at any time. Particularly middle and high school age kids. The boundary invasion policy covers that.

    Another case is Ronald Driscoll, a high school teacher from Franklin Pierce School District. http://www.thenewstribune.com/2011/04/01/1608006/more-charges-against-teacher.html

    He was accused of touching students as well and was charged with assault.

    Districts have the obligation to rid themselves of controversial teachers and protect kids from assaults. I would not want a teacher who has been accused of any misdeeds with a kid teaching my kid.

  15. cclngthr says:

    normajean,
    There has to be physical evidence (in the case of your stepdaughter)of the misdeed, and physical forensic evidence. When my nephew’s ex accused him of raping the 3 kids, there were no physical signs of molestation because even fondling can show physical signs of that kind of abuse. Investigators, including CPS concluded there were no abuse going on between my nephew and the kids. The responses from his ex wife however were inconsistant with a true allegation (she appeared disappointed that nothing was discovered).

    In the case of my brother, who was charged with incest, there were signs of abuse and intense fear from the victim. Although he denied it to everyone, he admitted to it to his older daughters mother.

    beerBoy,
    This is akin to the case where a Seattle rape victims attempt to jump off the courthouse building. The suspect in the case, acting as his own attorney insisted he had the legal right to explore her sexual behavior and confront her about why she accused him of raping her.

    I also thought of the idea that males cannot be raped; which some people believe.

  16. alindasue says:

    cclngthr said, “Accusations, either true, or false can result in suspension of the certificate based on the issues…”

    See, THAT is the part I’m having big issues with: people being punished based on accusations alone, whether the accusations prove true or not. THAT is what is happening with too many of these sexual abuse accusations. THAT is why I have problems with articles, like the one regarding Ms. Shaw, where they word the details of the accusations as if it is proven fact that the accused had done the acts. Even if she is found totally innocent of all charges, her career as a teacher is essentially over simply based on the fact that she was accused.

    If the courts (or the hearing) says that a person is innocent, then that person is innocent and should not have to suffer further punishment – regardless of how horrific the crimes that the person had been accused of were.

    beerBoy, I agree with you that we shouldn’t necessarily investigate the accuser. In many cases, the victim really is a victim even when the person accused is not guilty of being the attacker and the victim should not be victimized again by the court system.

    However, it is not unreasonable to take the accuser into account when weighing the evidence related to an accusation. For instance, is the person making accusations of child molestation and estranged spouse who might be trying to tip the balance in a child custody battle? Or a child that doesn’t want Mom to remarry? (That happened to a friend once…) Those factors need to be taken into account in any search for the facts of a situation.

  17. alindasue – Yes, an accusation does not equal guilt. The accused should receive a fair trial based upon the evidence.

    BUT, the letter’s call for the accuser be investigated at an “equal, if not greater, level of diligence” is rather chilling.

  18. cclngthr says:

    alindasue,
    The state has to weigh the accusation whether true or false as a moral conduct issue. Being accused can make that person biased and not worth it to try to retain them as a teacher. Moral conduct assumes the person has not been accused, and if there are accusations, why were they put in a position where they could be accused.

    A former director of OPP told a class I took in college that the state takes accusations extremely seriously and whether true or false, that accusation is a violation of moral character because the person being accused places themselves where it is easier for them to be accused of misconduct. She stated in the class to avoid all possible conduct that an accusation could theoretically happen.

    Her reasoning for this is parents have full access to teacher files and can legally obtain documents showing any misconduct and moral character violations. They also have a legal right to question the state, and teacher of these allegations and sue the state for retaining that teacher. Although I know of no lawsuits of this matter, I can see where a parent could sue the state and school district for retaining that accused teacher on staff/valid certification. To the state, it is not worth the risk of potential lawsuits of parents suing over the retention of that teacher.

    With the Moulton case, the only reason why he won his job back was he was fired after being disciplined by the district for the same offense. The examiner had to rule the district erred due to double-jeopardy. If the district fired him rather than suspended him, the ruling from the hearing examiner would have ruled in favor of the district.

    In the case of my nephew’s divorce, where his ex tried to accuse him of sexual abuse, the appelate court ruled that her actions as a parent did not allow the children to develop normal friendships and her parenting was including issues of abusive conflict:
    RCW 26.09.191 (3) A parent’s involvement or conduct may have an adverse effect on the
    child’s best interests, and the court may preclude or limit any provisions of the parenting
    plan, if any of the following factors exist:
    (b) A long-term emotional or physical impairment which interferes with the parent’s
    performance of parenting functions as defined in RCW 26.09.004;
    (e) The abusive use of conflict by the parent which creates the danger of serious damage
    to the child’s psychological development;
    (0 A parent has withheld from the other parent access to the child for a protracted period
    without good cause;

    She also focused on protecting and teaching, not meeting the child’s psychological needs.

  19. cclngthr says:

    beerBoy,
    The letter’s tone makes it appear that the accuser should be investigated because males cannot be molested and are the agressor in the situation.

  20. alindasue says:

    cclngthr said, “Her reasoning for this is parents have full access to teacher files and can legally obtain documents showing any misconduct and moral character violations.”

    I would assume that a determination of “not guilty” or “lack of evidence to support claim” verdict would also be in those files too, would they not? If not, then they should be.

    cclngthr, you taught my son for a while. I know it was a good decade or so ago, but some sex abuse allegations are for situations that are at least that old. My son wears pull-up type diapers and I know there were many times that teachers – maybe even you – had to clean up his diaper area during school. Your assumption that the accusations alone should be reason enough to declare someone’s “moral conduct” inadequate for teaching even after the accusations have been proven false is really starting to annoy me.

    So I (theoretically, for the purposes of this argument only) accuse you of molesting my son while you were teaching him. You and I both know that the accusations are not true and any investigation into the matter would prove your innocence. However, based on your standards and what you report the standards of OSPI to be, you are now unfit to continue teaching because you put yourself in a position that I could accuse you and so now your “moral conduct” is inadequate for the job.

    Are you still not seeing the problem with all this?

    Suspending a teacher during an investigation and trial makes sense. Removing the teaching credentials of an accused teacher who has been found guilty makes sense. However, once an accused person has been found innocent of the accusations, then all sanctions should stop and the person should be able to return to his or her normal life as if he or she had never been accused.

  21. alindasue…I cannot remember even ONE teacher case being dismissed because a student made it up

  22. cclngthr says:

    alindasue,
    In the case of your son, and with many SPED programs, there is an exemption (of touching) in a case where physical toileting is a necessary job requirement. In these cases, the adult and student are not exactly alone behind closed doors. Additionally, there must be documentation each and every time it is done, and a review is done by another staff member. This reduces the possibility of immoral conduct in these particular situations. It isn’t like a staff member can take a kid into a closed bathroom to change the kid and not have any documentation of it.

    In cases where a substitute teacher is present, a regular staff member usually does the toileting, for obvious reasons.

    In your theoretical situation of accusing me of misconduct, you first have to be aware that toileting kids is not done/observed by one person. There are signed documentation of when it occurs, the time, and what took place, along with another signature of a second person who reviews it. You first would have to accuse not only me, but another person of misconduct.

    I began to refuse to toilet kids (because I could not lift them and for other reasons) back in the early 90’s. While I was able to refuse to do that, I had to observe and review documentation of that issue as a second party to protect staff and students of immoral conduct. HR agreed with my assessment, due to my own disability in having to do that. I was also able to refuse to teach sex education topics because a few people view a disabled person as one who has “uncontrollable sexual urges.”

    In cases where students are NOT disabled or needing toileting, touching students by district policy is highly discouraged because it increases the chances of immoral conduct.

    If someone were to accuse me of immoral conduct, I would leave the profession permanently because I know an accusation, even a false one is enough damage to ruin my chances of continuing to teach effectively. I also know that parents view accusations as part of the responsibility of the person being accused, including false allegations.

    As far as paperwork when false allegations or unfounded allegations are evident, they typically are removed from the files of the employee. However, at the state level, they are retained for a period of time (I think 10 years). With CPS and law enforcement, they are a permanent record.

  23. normajean says:

    A person’s career can be destroyed based on an accusation without merit. What is right about this? As it was mentioned before, a parent does not want a teacher accused yet vindicated to continue to teach her child. This is so wrong yet it has the support of the brass. So, so sad

  24. cclngthr says:

    jrdndd,
    I remember a case, I think last year, or a year before that, where a teacher in the Bethel School District was accused of misconduct by several teenage girls that ended up being false. I remember reading he left teaching as a result.

  25. cclngthr says:

    normajean,
    It only takes one complaint from a parent to get things rolling, and even if the accusation may be false, other parents can question why that teacher wants to continue to teach.

    The state prefers to have teachers with a squeaky clean record with zero black marks.

  26. frankiethomas says:

    Thank god we have courts. This is ridiculous. It is rare that false accusations are made but yes they are made. No I don’t like the tone of this letter but my guess is it was a DIRECT response to what appeared to be the presumption of guilt already placed on the accused by the public and media. Perhaps a quick read of the Sean Flanigan case out of Virginia might give one pause. A moral violation to even be falsely accused. For the love of God.

  27. itwasntmethistime says:

    cc — I’d venture a guess that you would not pass the sexual deviancy evaluation you think every teacher should be subject to. I thik this because you are abnormally paranoid about sex offenders. Whatever the reason for that extreme paranoia may be, it doesn’t matter because you deviate from the norm, and that makes you an unacceptable risk. Still want to take that test?

  28. cclngthr says:

    itwasntmethistime,
    I know I would pass the test because the tests focuses on abnormal sexualized behavior, which I avoid.

    One screening tool is the Abel Assessment. The Diana Screening tool is one of the tests Abel Assessments use to identify people who have a high risk to violate appropriate adult/child sexual boundaries.

    frankiethomas,

    What concerns me about letters like this is it discourages people to disclose sexual abuse, particularly with boys. It makes it appear that it was the victim was the toublemaker.

    Having a niece who truely was sexually abused, I have seen what these kids go through, and what problems they have.

  29. frankiethomas says:

    I don’t think I could ever make you see, cc, that it was your letter that prompted this letter.

  30. itwasntmethistime says:

    cc — You’re wrong about psychological profile tests. They’re not about exposing behaviors you’ve already demonstrated, they’re about probing your psyche for latent thoughts and behaviors that have not surfaced yet but are likely to in the future. You are obsessed with child molestation and it’s kind of creepy.

  31. alindasue….going back to my first comment..”it is undeniable that many people have been unjustly sentenced to life in prison for crimes they did not commit, based on little more than the word of an accuser”

    you thought of one, perhaps in bethel school district…there just aren’t any out there :)

  32. cclngthr says:

    itwasntmethistime,
    You are wrong there. I have been exposed to child molestation through family being accused of it and seeing what actually goes on. I also have taken (temporarily) over classrooms of teachers who have been accused, and convicted of it and working with kids who have been abused. I am more aware of that issue than you are.

    I see the problems that are created when people don’t take it seriously and when they believe it doesn’t happen. That was the position my family took, and the major reason why my niece was permanently removed from the care of her parents (she was 7 at the time). CPS felt due to that position, and the ignorance of sexual abuse my family exhibited, she was better off being adopted; which I feel was the right move. My niece does have contact with me and we often communicate. For the rest of the family, she doesn’t.

    frankiethomas,
    See above. My position still is, people are not taking the issue seriously, and when they show ignorance of the issue, and blame victims of such abuse, it causes a bunch of problems and creates a situation that when people accuse others of such abuse, people’s implication through cross examining them is the victim started the sexual act instead of the other way around. Do you think it is normal for a 7 year old to act in a sexual manner? How about a 12 year old? In my mind, kids that young do not know about it enough to know what it means.

    I do think state law on the Romeo & Juliet exemption also creates a problem. That exemption allows 12 year olds to legally engage in sexual acts with people no more than 24 months older than they are. This I discovered from a caseworker who was monitoring a 12 year old who had a child up for adoption. To me, that should be automatically rape; but in that case, according to the caseworker, it was not because the 2 were close in age enough to comply with the exemption.

  33. cc – I too have a niece who was sexually abused by a family member and have seen/see first hand how it continues to damage the entire family. My wife was sexually abused as a child by a piano teacher which her mother pretended never happened. I get it. You don’t have some sort of special insight.

    Your “solution” of removing all teachers ever accused or suspected of this behavior regardless of guilt is absurd. Your suggestion that being wrongfully accused is somehow the teacher’s fault or will emotionally damage the teacher to the point that they can no longer function effectively is unsubstantiated and more than a little draconian.

  34. commoncents says:

    jrndd – There are some out there..and yes, there was one in the Bethel School District.

    “Four girls have been suspended from Frontier Junior High School in Graham after texting about a teacher. The text called the teacher a rapist and a pedophile.”…”Any accusations brought about this staff member have been thoroughly investigated in the past and are not credible,” says Carlson.

    Sean Lanigan, Mary McMartin, Tonya Craft, Margaret Michaels. All were accused and went to trial and no convictions. It happens. Not nearly as often as real and justified accusations but false ones do occur.

    That’s how these things get started…generally they are found before they go to trial. You aren’t going to hear about those as they are discovered by school investigators and never get to trial. The Bethel case did make the news because the district came down so hard on the students.

    Instead of saying it doesn’t happen – why don’t you ask a male teacher if he’s ever been accused. A survey was done in Canada and 13% of male teachers have had accusations against them. That’s a lot…

    Sean Lanigan, McMartin Pre-School, Tonya Craft, Margaret Michaels,

  35. normajean says:

    A ”grey” mark on a teacher’s evaluation because of an unfounded allegation is in itself criminal. No teacher who has spent years studying & preparing to become a teacher should be cast aside because of a false accusation. Think of the many teachers whose career’s could be ruined through no fault of their own. I advocate jail time & rehab for those guilty of such a crime. I don’t believe, however, that rehab will do the trick but I do believe that professionals can better grasp to what degree the pedophile will repeat said act.

  36. Common Cents: “Four girls have been suspended from Frontier Junior High School in Graham after texting about a teacher. The text called the teacher a rapist and a pedophile”

    Going back to my original comment: it is undeniable that many people have been unjustly sentenced to life in prison for crimes they did not commit, based on little more than the word of an accuser

    Was the person at FJH unjustly sentenced to life in prison? NOOOOOOOOOO
    I never said there were accusations, I said there were no teachers unjustly sentenced or unjustly dismissed :)

  37. commoncents says:

    jrndd – Oh, so the fact that in many cases their careers are ruined and they have to spend multitudes of money in defending themselves makes no difference to you? It’s all ok because they are all given their jobs back and are free to go back into the classroom? Even though many in the community will continue to think of them with a negative light? No problem…they didn’t go to jail.

    They should just deal with it, right? Tell that to Lanigan.. “Police issued a press release with Lanigan’s booking photo and home address, and the school district sent home a letter about his arrest. TV trucks descended on the school and his neighborhood, and Lanigan’s reputation took a lasting beating. Even today, the first thing that comes up in a Google search of Sean Lanigan is a Web site called “Bad Bad Teacher.””

    c’mon…you know full well the damage that an accusation like this can cause.

    That being said, I don’t want to put accusers on trial. I just think that publicizing things before a trial is not fair and not right.

  38. cclngthr says:

    commoncents,
    That teacher did leave the profession though. I saw several articles about the issue and one of the articles mentioned after OSPI cleared him, he left teaching.

    As with the Lanigan case, he too is not teaching.

    Beerboy,

    While you feel falsely accused teachers can easily return to teaching, I feel due to the publicity about teacher sex abuse cases, and the drama it causes, once one is accused of any kind of sex crime, that label sticks to that person even after the accusation.

    I also feel that teachers have to be extra cautious around kids, and when accusations are made, it usually involves their behavior around kids; usually a trusting behavior. They also have to be careful of online behavior as well. Kids are quite savvy about looking up stuff and will use anything to get their way if they can. However false allegations are fairly easy to spot for most people.

    I feel it is a risk to the school district to keep a teacher who has been accused of sexual misconduct. Parents may question the district why that teacher is on staff despite the false accusation. Too many questions would have to be answered in order for that teacher to continue teaching.

    If you look at the Lenigan case, although he was innocent, he could not return to his old school, but was given a position at a high school not of his choice, and a year later he was laid off; district said it was his tenure not good enough (he had 13 years in the district), but the likely decision was made because of the false accusation and the position he and the district had to face, and possible questions from parents of why he continued to teach after the accusation.

    With the internet, you can look up anything , and if negative things are coming up first, that is what people look at. Google yourself and see what comes up first.

    Teachers have to take the issue of sexual assaults extremely seriously, which when they don’t, things can go wrong in a hurry.

  39. cclngthr says:

    Beerboy and Commoncents,

    This is in one of the articles regarding Lanigan, and something I have been saying quite often.

    Despite the acquittal, the district began an internal reprimand process. And in December, as Lanigan pushed to have his legal fees reimbursed, the district presented him with two pages of specially tailored “guidelines and expectations.”

    “Do not touch FCPS students as a means of greeting, playing with, showing approval of, or otherwise interacting with them,” the guidelines state. “Avoid placing yourself in close physical proximity to any student, particularly in a manner that could be interpreted as sexual. . . . Do not be alone in your office or other rooms with a student unless the door is open and you and the student are visible from outside the room.”

    The bold part is what was placed in his file. That directive makes it extremely easy to trip over and be accused again, and also be fired over it.

  40. alindasue says:

    cclngthr,

    Without meaning to, you made the full case for what commonsense and I have been saying all along. If his picture, address, letter to the students’ families, etc had not been published before he had even had a chance to go to trial, his reputation would not be tarnished despite the innocent verdict.

    Once he was found innocent, all reference to the charges should have been removed from his file. The district should not have created a “specially tailored ‘guidelines and expectations'” to be in his file for anyone looking to “trip over”. THE MAN WAS PROVEN INNOCENT! That should have been the end of it.

    There are many ways a school district can deal with a teacher who has been accused of sexual assault (or any impropriety). The easiest and least damaging to anyone is to just put him on a “temporary leave of absence” while the issue is being settled. If it actually comes to criminal charges being filed, then all the press needs to be told is who the teacher is. There does not need to be a detail by detail list of charges (stated as if they are already proven fact) along with the teacher’s picture, address, and life story.

    Once a teacher is found innocent, the charges and all related materials should be wiped from the teacher’s file rather than following him throughout his career. BEING ACCUSED DOES NOT MAKE A TEACHER UNFIT TO TEACH! Why ruin the career of a teacher who didn’t do anything wrong?

    The reason those innocent teachers are no longer teaching has nothing to do with their fitness to teach and everything to do with a regressive system that punishes a teacher just for being accused, even when those accusations prove to be false. THAT NEEDS TO BE CHANGED!

    I can’t even begin to understand why you would consider such a system justifiable.

  41. cclngthr says:

    alindasue,

    I think you are mistaken. Once a person is accused of sexual misconduct, that label sticks to the person. It really does not matter if it was true or false. The presumption is, the person has a much higher “RISK” of future misconduct because people will view his actions under more scrutiny because he was already accused of misconduct.

    Lanigan did regularly touch students, and lifted them and twirled them around in a circle. Most people view this as an appropriate action of a teacher; however, all it takes is one simple complaint to set things rolling, and that teacher easily will be under more scrutiny. That touching likely was used by the girl who accused him of molestation.

    Whether you like it or not, ALL court records are public access and court dockets can be published, from probable cause hearings to jury trial hearings/sentences. The public has a legal right to view everything (under open records act) what happens in a court. Lanigan’s court records were legitamately published by the media for publication, and what interpretations it caused, is something we have no control over. Questions why he was accused are asked and what caused the accusation to me made were published. Websites like badbadteacher.com actually list teachers who are accused of midconduct based on current reports, and it does not matter if it ends up true or false, the reports are still published. The only possible solution to this is to have the court seal the records, but they only can do that after the proceedings have ended and the defendent petitions the court to have the entire court record sealed. That is not an easy task to do.

    District lawyers have the right to protect the district from future litigation involving a teacher who was accused but found innocent by parents wanting this man out of the classroom. That was done with the Michael Moulton case, where he won his job back, (but was guilty of misconduct). The only reason why Moulton won his job back was the district first suspended him over an offense he did, but fired him for the exact same offense. .

    If you look at the dicipline actions website,
    http://www.k12.wa.us/profpractices/investigations/disciplinaryaction.aspx
    you will find numerous teachers who have had their licenses suspended and reinstated. Some have a stayed suspension, but it is a public record and also a permanent record of the actions of a teacher. That stayed suspension allows the teacher to remain teaching, but it sets standards of conduct which that teacher must comply with, and acts like a deferred prosecution.

    Past history is a determination of future behavior, a tactic courts use to judge defendents in criminal and civil trials. Found innocent is also in these records as well, and they can be used against the defendent. The only possible solution here is to have the record dismissed.

  42. frankiethomas says:

    alindasue you are completely right.

  43. BalletinRed says:

    This reminds me of the Duke lacrosse mess in NC several years ago.I’m not sure how much it was covered up here but down there they convicted those poor boys in the news and then found out that 1 they weren’t there to rape the young women 2 she was a drug addict and had sold sex for money earlier in the night. All charges were dropped and the district attorney was fired and lost his license and was sued. So I agree make sure that the victim is someone with no motive to lie.

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