Students Make False Allegations of Sexual Abuse Against Teachers
Teachers are often the focus of false allegations made by students. Whether the student is reacting to discipline or low grades, kids often lie to their parents to avoid trouble at home and often these lies including blaming their teachers. This is true whether the student is alleging physical abuse, neglect or, even worse, inappropriate sexual contact.
Many will argue that children do not lie about allegations of sexual abuse, but, in our experience, this is simply not true. Kids do lie, even about sexual crimes, and this has been shown by study after study.
Texas leads in the nation in allegations of sex crimes by teachers upon students. In September, Houston based Drive West Communications reported that Texas and Pennsylvania are ranked first and second in sexual misconduct between educator and student so far this year. According to the Texas Education Agency, the number of such reported cases in Texas has fluctuated since 2009—156 that year, 196 in 2010-11, and 174 in 2011-12.
The advent of social media and widespread used among both teachers and students may have enhanced both the opportunity and likelihood of sexual misconduct between educator and student.
In 2000, a study by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) found that 4.5 million students in grade K-12 had suffered some form of sexual abuse—ranging from touching to actual assault—by an educator.
In 2004, Charol Shakeshaft of the Virginia Commonwealth University expanded the AAUW study at the behest of the U.S. Department of Education. She found there was no additional data beyond the 2000 study, but when she added additional categories of misconduct like educator masturbating or watching child pornography with students, she found that nearly ten percent of all students had experienced some form of abuse or misconduct by an educator.
Relying upon the data from these 2000 and 2004 reports, the U.S. Government Accountability Office this past January issued another report accusing the nation’s educational systems of cover-ups, lack of training, insufficient teacher background checks, and little guidance from the U.S. Department of Education that contributes to the 9.6 percent of students being subject to abuse by “teachers, coaches, principals, bus drivers or other personnel” during their K-12 grades.
Against this backdrop, the Texas Legislature has made it clear that it considers “improper relationship[s] between educator and student” a serious matter.
In 2003, lawmakers enacted tough penalties for educators who engage in sexual relationships with students. Texas Penal Code § 21.12 prohibits any school employee in a public or private elementary or secondary school from engaging in “sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse” with a student “who is enrolled” in the school where the employee works. A violation of this second degree felony is punishable by a sentence of 2 to 20 years in prison, a $10,000 fine, and a listing of the offender on the state’s sex offender registry.
This Texas statute is one of the toughest, if not the toughest, in the nation.
Student age is not a defense in Texas. An offense in this state applies to anyone “who is enrolled” in the school, regardless of whether they are 5 or 75.
However, of all the professions that involve contact with children or minors, educators are the most vulnerable to false allegations of misconduct against a student. Earlier this year, Jim S. Dean, a blog writer for the website “The Truth About Prone Restraint,” said that nearly three-fourths of all complaints of misconduct against teachers are found to be false. While we cannot independently verify that statistic, we do know that children and minors do frequently make false allegations of sexual abuse by adults, including family members, relatives, friends, and, yes, teachers.
False allegations of misconduct, especially those involving any form of alleged sexual abuse, have devastating personal and professional consequences on educators and other professionals working in our schools. Therefore, it is vitally important that those investigating these allegations do a thorough investigation before deciding to formally charge a teacher with what is a career destroying act.
Unfortunately, this often doesn’t happen because those investigating these allegations believe that children don’t lie.
As we have said many times before, the only thing worse than child sexual abuse is being falsely charged with sexually abusing a child.