How California Teachers Can Protect Themselves Against False Abuse Allegations
Other than a child’s immediate family, no other group of people will spend more time or have more influence over a child’s development than their teachers. Teaching is truly a noble profession and why, for over 40 years, Wallin & Klarich has been proud to work closely with the California Teachers Association (CTA). Founded in 1863 and boasting over 300,000 members, the CTA is one of the largest teachers’ associations in America. During the course of our association with CTA, Wallin & Klarich has helped countless teachers falsely accused of misconduct involving students.
Unfortunately, many of these teachers were guilty of nothing more than trying to go the extra mile to help a troubled student. While we certainly do not want to do anything to discourage a teacher from helping a student through a difficult time, there are things you can do to not only help your students but also protect your reputation – and your career.
Here are a few bits of advice gleaned from our experience (as always, be sure you follow your own school district’s policies in these situations):
1. Never be alone in a private area with a student! If a student approaches you in, say, your classroom, and you’re alone, immediately step into a public area, such as a hallway, school front office, or another teacher’s occupied classroom. If this is not possible, politely tell the student you’re in the middle of something you need to finish and can you please meet them in a few minutes and then choose a public place to meet.
2. If a student needs to speak with you about a sensitive matter, do so in a place where you can be seen by others but not easily heard. If possible, try to have such conversations in the presence of another teacher or adult whom the student also trusts and is comfortable with.
3. Do not give your students your home/mobile telephone number or personal email address. If you need to call a student on the telephone, insist that a parent or guardian be on the call as well. If you need to send an email to a student, ensure that the student’s parent(s) or guardian(s) are CC’d on the message and, again, only use your school email account to send such emails.
4. Do not friend/follow/like your students on social media. You should always strive to maintain a professional “teacher/student” relationship with your students. If you have a legitimate reason for associating with your students on social media, e.g., investigating allegations of cyberbullying, act with the knowledge of your superiors or in association with another teacher and document your reasons for doing what you’re doing. Do not delete or alter any messages or correspondence you send or receive! Assume whatever you send/say/do will be seen by others who will second-guess your words, actions, and judgment!
5. Do not drive a student home from school or a school-related activity unless absolutely necessary and if you must do so, ensure that there is another unrelated adult in the car with you at all times. Also only give the student a ride once you’ve exhausted all other options and only if you’ve notified their parent(s)/guardian(s).
6. Make sure you keep accurate records and receipts for school monies received and spent.
7. Keep a professional perspective, demeanor, and style with your students; even if you’re close in age to them. You cannot talk to them like a parent or one of their buddies.
8. Do not have a relationship with any student outside of school or school-related activities. We know this can be hard; especially in the case of a student with challenges at home or in school, but you must try to maintain a level of professional separation. It might help to try to find a fellow student willing to befriend a pupil in such a difficult situation.
9. Keep detailed contemporaneous notes of things that occur in class, and of meetings with students – especially things that could possibly be considered objectionable or sensitive. You don’t want an “innocent” question about human reproduction, and your “innocent” response being misrepresented days or weeks after the fact once it’s made its way around your school’s rumor mill! If you get into the habit of keeping a daily journal, you will have contemporaneous evidence to back up your version of the events.
10. Do NOT fail to report any suspected child abuse or child molestation ASAP. As a California teacher, you are a mandatory reporter, which means you must report all suspected acts of child abuse and/or child molestation to law enforcement without delay [PC 11166].
Contact the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich
If you are a California School Teacher and are facing criminal charges, you do not have to fight the charges alone. Wallin & Klarich attorneys have more than 40 years of experience defending and use our skills and legal knowledge to help our clients. We work hard to build the best possible defense to these charges. Let us help you today.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, San Diego, West Covina, Torrance, and Victorville, there is an experienced and skilled Wallin & Klarich sex crimes defense attorney available to help you no matter where you are located.
Contact our offices today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free, no-obligation phone consultation. We will be there when you call.