Friday, August 1, 2008

Teachers and false rape in the news

Three stories about teachers and false rape claims were in the news Thursday, and they largely speak for themselves.

First, the Supreme Court of Washington is to be commended for it's decision keeping the identities of teachers accused of sexual misconduct anonymous when the claims are unsubstantiated as opposed to patently false (the latter is arguably more difficult to prove). Among other things, the court said this:

It is undisputed that disclosure of the identity of a teacher accused of sexual misconduct is highly offensive to a reasonable person.

Bravo! That exact logic applies to any innocent man falsely accused of rape, does it not? Yet our news outlets have no hesitation in broadcasting the names of any man on the basis of nothing more than an accusation of rape so that the entire world can titillate to the details of his humiliation. Such publication often destroys an innocents man's life; his accuser, of course, is shrouded in anonymity.

The court also explained:

Making a distinction between "unsubstantiated" and "patently false" is vague and impractical.

Again, bravo! Yet one of the constant skirmishes in the gender war on sexual assault is over that fact that a claim that is "unfounded" may not be "false."

Puh-lease! The default status in our jurisprudence is "innocent until proven guilty." If a claim is unfounded, how dare we require a man to carry a taint with him for the rest of his life that "well, something might have happened . . . ."

Second, the other two stories reprinted below about teachers only underscore the obvious: if you are a young man, you would have to think twice about entering the teaching profession given the enhanced possibility that your entire career can be destroyed by a child's fabrications about sexual misconduct. We dare say that this evil does not afflict women in anywhere approaching the same degree as it afflicts men in the teaching profession.

Here are the THREE stories:


WA court protects identities of some teachers

Identities of public school teachers who face unsubstantiated allegations of sexual misconduct can be kept secret to protect the educators' privacy, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.


Associated Press Writer

OLYMPIA, Wash. —

Identities of public school teachers who face unsubstantiated allegations of sexual misconduct can be kept secret to protect the educators' privacy, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The 6-3 ruling partially reversed a state Court of Appeals ruling that those identities must be disclosed under the state's Public Records Act, unless the allegations of misconduct were clearly false.

The Supreme Court's majority, led by Justice Mary Fairhurst, ruled that a teacher's identity should be made public only when alleged sexual misconduct has been substantiated or when that teacher's conduct results in some form of discipline, even if only a reprimand.

But when the allegations are determined to be unsubstantiated, a teacher's identity is exempt from public disclosure laws because "such disclosure would violate the teacher's right to privacy."

"Allegations of such abuse should be thoroughly investigated by school districts and, if the allegations are substantiated, the media may request records containing the identity of the perpetrating teacher," Fairhurst wrote.

Chief Justice Gerry Alexander joined the majority, along with Justices Susan Owens, James Johnson, and Bobbe Bridge. Justice Tom Chambers also signed the majority opinion, but wrote that he agreed "in result only," with no further comment.

In a scathing dissent, Justice Barbara Madsen said the ruling could conceal information needed to help determine whether the state's school districts are addressing sexual misconduct allegations, meaning that "predatory teachers may go undetected and unpunished."

"But the most unfortunate consequence, and one that is completely unacceptable, is that if predatory teachers are undetected, children will continue to suffer at their hands," Madsen wrote, joined by Justices Charles Johnson and Richard Sanders.

The case stems from a 2003 investigative project by The Seattle Times that found 159 coaches in Washington were fired or reprimanded for sexual misconduct, ranging from harassment to rape.

The Times report found that school districts often failed to investigate complaints against coaches, and didn't report them to law enforcement or the state education office.

As part of its research, the paper filed public disclosure requests with 10 school districts seeking copies of all records relating to allegations of teacher sexual misconduct in the previous 10 years.

Several teachers sued to keep the districts from releasing their records, arguing that it violated their right to privacy. The Times became a party in the lawsuit, seeking for the records to be released.

In Thursday's ruling concerning 15 teachers from the Seattle, Bellevue, and Federal Way school districts, the court said the "mere fact of the allegation of sexual misconduct toward a minor may hold the teacher up to hatred and ridicule in the community, without any evidence that such misconduct ever occurred."

The majority also dismissed concerns over schools having inadequate investigations in order to avoid public scrutiny.

"Under our holding, the public can access documents related to the allegations and investigations (subject to redactions), thus maintaining the citizens' ability to inform themselves about school district operations," the court wrote.

The court also said teachers have a right to keep their identities private because the unsubstantiated or false allegations are matters "concerning the teachers' private lives and are not specific incidents of misconduct during the course of employment."

Madsen blasted that contention in her dissent, writing that "the material in a teacher's file relating to allegations of sexual misconduct involving students is not information that is protected by the right of privacy.

"It does not pertain to the intimate details of one's personal and private life but is instead information about alleged specific instances of misconduct occurring in the course of the teacher's performance of his or her public duties - a kind of information that this court has specifically identified as not encompassed by the right of privacy."

The majority also ruled that "letters of direction" or memos sent to teachers to guide or direct their performance are disclosable under the Public Records Act, but that "where a letter simply seeks to guide future conduct, does not mention substantiated misconduct, and a teacher is not disciplined or subject to any restriction, the name and identifying information of the teacher should be redacted."

"This result protects both the public interest in overseeing school districts' responses to allegations (letters of direction give citizens a complete picture of a school district's investigations and accompanying procedures) and the teacher's individual privacy rights," the court wrote.


Teacher fails in unique High Court bid to have 'fanciful' rape claims struck from record

By Dan Newling
Last updated at 1:19 AM on 01st August 2008

A teacher who says he was falsely accused of sexually abusing pupils yesterday lost a legal battle to clear his name.

John Pinnington, 59, was told that all potential future employers must be told about the accusations, even though they were never proved.

Mr Pinnington was fired from his job as deputy head of a college for autistic young adults when the allegations, made when he worked at another college, came to light, in 2005.

He was accused of sexually inappropriate behaviour with three young men.

Police investigated, but in each case no action was taken.

Mr Pinnington's lawyer, Tania Griffiths QC, told the High Court that one of alleged victims 'could not stop telling lies' and claimed he made the complaint simply to 'get attention'.

Nonetheless, the fact that the allegations were made meant that he lost his job.

Since then Mr Pinnington has failed to find a job because the abuse allegations appear on his file at the Criminal Records Bureau, which issues certificates for everyone seeking to work with children.

The father of two argued that the certificate produced by the CRB was 'based on lies' but had nonetheless cost him 'my life and my livelihood'.

He argued that police CRB checks should only include unsubstantiated abuse allegations if there is good cause to believe they are true.

Yesterday, the High Court dismissed his attempt to prevent Thames Valley Police from including the information in the CRB check.

Although Lord Justice Richards agreed that the accusations against Mr Pinnington, of Wallingford, Oxfordshire, had 'serious weaknesses' and 'could not be substantiated', he said that did not entirely negate them.

He ruled there was nothing unlawful about the force's actions and said that future employers 'should be aware' of the accusations, however weak and unreliable they are.

'In relation to employment with children or vulnerable adults, it is information of which an employer should be aware.

'It is then for the employer to decide whether the employment of the person concerned involves an unacceptable risk'.

But Chris Keates, of the teachers' union NASUWT, said: 'This shows that even when someone is cleared of all allegations made against them, there is no escape as far as working with children is concerned.

'It simply cannot be right that even when somebody has been through an investigation, and they are found to be innocent, they can never clear their name.

'The teacher in this case will have to live his life with this hanging over him.'


Former principal countersues accuser

By Ben Fischer • • July 31, 2008

John R. Carlisle, the former principal of the School for Creative & Performing Arts, is striking back at a former student who accused him of raping her last year.

In a lengthy response to a lawsuit that Jordan Bucey filed in June, Carlisle not only denies the rape allegation but accuses Bucey of making frivolous, false statements that destroyed his reputation and livelihood.

He’s seeking at least $25,000 in damages from Bucey, a 2007 graduate of SCPA, according to the counterclaim filed in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court late last week.

Read Carlisle's counterclaim (PDF)

The lawsuit filing marks the first time Carlisle has publicly addressed the allegations since they were made public in December.

Carlisle has declined interview requests submitted through his lawyers.

Bucey went to Fort Mitchell police in October with allegations against Carlisle.

Kenton County officials investigated and declined to file criminal charges against Carlisle.

Then, in June, Bucey filed a lawsuit against Carlisle and several Cincinnati Public Schools officials. School district lawyers argued in a separate filing the district should be dismissed from the case.

The Enquirer will update this story.