Category Archives: abuse

The Academics Weigh in on Abuse of Teachers by Falsely Accusing Them


This article from CBC covers some important points, but the most important one is the first – there are no statistics.  One of the reasons is that every accusation is hush hush.  Even when cleared, a teacher is supposed to return to the classroom, grateful and silent.

False abuse accusations against teachers ‘on the rise’

By Mark Gollom, CBC News

Posted: Apr 24, 2012 5:05 AM ET

Last Updated: Apr 24, 2012 5:00 AM ET

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The number of false abuse allegations being made against teachers by students is difficult to determine as there is no central database or available statistics about the issue.The number of false abuse allegations being made against teachers by students is difficult to determine as there is no central database or available statistics about the issue. (istock)

Teachers across Canada are having their reputations ruined as increasing numbers get falsely accused of abusing their students, or acting inappropriately with them, experts say.

“We are getting more and more ‘teacher-talk’ evidence and teacher narratives that clearly indicate that false accusations are on the rise,” Jon Bradley, associate professor of education at McGill University, told CBCNews via email.

“Active parents are making things, in some cases, very difficult,” he said.

University of Ottawa faculty of education professor Joel Westheimer told CBC’s Ottawa Morning that incidents of false allegations used to be fairly rare in both Canada and the United States.

“In recent years they’ve been growing dramatically,” he said. “More and more teachers are being accused of often frivolous [things].”

Westheimer slammed school administrators for being “spineless” for automatically ordering investigations regardless of how credible the allegation of abuse may be.

“In the short term you prevent lawsuits, and in the long term you prevent people from entering the teaching profession.”

The issue is making waves following the case of an Ontario substitute teacher who was accused of abuse after telling a grade 5 student not to throw out his banana.The Children’s Aid Society recently concluded the abuse allegation was unfounded.

‘Parents too quick to point fingers’

In an article published last year for the Canadian Education Association website entitled, False Accusations: A Growing Fear in the Classroom, Bradley wrote that some lies are being told about teachers by students who, “find support in parents and friends who are far too quick to point fingers.”

McGill University education professor Jon Bradley has studied false accusations against teachers. He writes that students who make such allegations, 'find support in parents and friends who are too quick to point fingers.'McGill University education professor Jon Bradley has studied false accusations against teachers. He writes that students who make such allegations, ‘find support in parents and friends who are too quick to point fingers.’ (CBC)Local teachers unions and other educational authorities are “struggling to identify such incidents,” he wrote. But at the same time, he wrote, they appear “ill-equipped to develop realistic procedures and plans that safeguard due process and the reputations of those falsely accused.”

The number of false allegations being made against teachers is difficult to determine as there is no central database or available statistics about the issue.

But in a study conducted at Nipissing University, entitled “A Report on the Professional Journey of Male Primary-Junior teachers in Ontario,” nearly 13 per cent of male educators said they had been falsely accused. The study had 223 respondents across Ontario.

“I think it’s pretty prevalent,” said Professor Douglas Gosse, one of the authors of the study.

“There’s a general belief among many teachers that the pendulum has swung too far,” he said, adding that male teachers in particular seem to be targeted more.”

“We all want to protect our children but I liken it to racial profiling. I think we have to be very careful that we don’t have these prejudices because of the person’s gender and at the same time we definitely have to take any accusation quite seriously. But some of them are unfounded.”

Gosse said it’s problematic that records about false abuse allegations aren’t being kept.

“I think that information should be documented and I suspect that the number of cases that are simply dismissed are huge. I can’t say if it’s a majority or not but I know that many, many of these incidents are dismissed because of lack of evidence.”

Teachers are often devastated by these allegations, which can drag out for many months, he said.

“The men that we interviewed were under extreme psychological stress. It affected their family, their wives, their children. Even when it was resolved, it still had long-lasting psychological damage.”

Accused teacher committed suicide

In his article, Bradley wrote that in one particular case, a teacher accused of physical assault committed suicide, even though he was cleared of the charges and the student recanted.

“While it may never be proven, his family (and many colleagues) share the view that [he] sought this drastic release because he could not bear the stain of a false accusation and the thought that his whole career was on the line,” Bradley wrote.

It’s also difficult to determine how many teachers leave the profession because they’ve been falsely accused, he added.

Bradley said children must be protected and teachers who would abuse students must be expelled from the school system. But there must also be mechanisms that protect the rights of innocent teachers, he said.

And little is done to hold students accountable for making up stories, Bradley added.

“In case after case, parents leap to the defence of apparently ‘abused’ children and, when the dust has settled, offer no compensation to the aggrieved teacher,” Bradley wrote. “This skewed arrangement puts more emphasis on unsupported adolescent narratives than on verifiable facts.”

Not Something of which I Want Reminding


My only comment now is that I have been here and I am deeply upset that this kind of thing continues to happen.  As a link to this CBC article will probably eventually disappear, I am going to copy the whole article here.

Falsely accused teacher calls for accountability

Accused of abusing students, teacher spent weeks under suspicion

By Kathy Tomlinson CBC News

Posted: Apr 23, 2012 2:08 AM PT

Last Updated: Apr 23, 2012 2:30 PM PT

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Teacher Susan Dowell was accused of abusing students after she challenged a boy for throwing out a banana at lunch.Teacher Susan Dowell was accused of abusing students after she challenged a boy for throwing out a banana at lunch. (CBC)
Kathy TomlinsonKathy Tomlinson

An Ontario substitute teacher who was cleared of abuse allegations is speaking out, suggesting that parents and students be held accountable for making false accusations.

“Something is terribly wrong here,” said Susan Dowell, who has taught school for 15 years. “Children who do make false allegations – parents who make false allegations – what happens to them in the end?”

The complaint against Dowell came after she told a grade five boy not to throw away an uneaten banana at lunch. Dowell was on lunch room duty, during a one-day teaching assignment at R.L. Graham elementary school, in Keswick, Ont.

“I told him to eat it…or put it back in his lunch box and take it home. His parents paid good money for fruit like that for him to eat,” said Dowell.

Dowell said the boy went home that night and complained, so one of his parents went to the school vice principal.

“The story that the parent heard and later told the administration…is that I had him go into the garbage to take out a squishy banana — eat garbage basically — and humiliated him in front of his friends.”

Dowell said the incident happened right after she had enforced classroom rules, for a group of unruly students – the boy’s friends – that morning.

“They came in with an attitude immediately…like they’re going to see how far they can go,” said Dowell. “I know enough, in a situation like this, I’m not going to get into a battle with students…so I asked them to go to the office immediately.”

Banana incident sparked investigation

The following week, while teaching at another school, she was suddenly sent home and told she was under investigation by Ontario’s Children’s Aid Society.

“I was just shocked and confused,” said Dowell. For over a week, she said, no one would tell her what she was accused of doing.

“For nine days. It feels like you’re waiting to find out a diagnosis with cancer. It’s crazy making…I was told not to speak to anyone.”

Dowell later learned that after the parent complained about the banana incident, the vice principal talked to the other students she taught that day. She said the group of unruly students she’d sent to the office had plenty of complaints.

Dowell was on a one-day teaching assignment at R.L. Graham Elementary School, when the incidents happened.Dowell was on a one-day teaching assignment at R.L. Graham Elementary School, when the incidents happened. (CBC)“Somehow all these children came up with all these incredible stories of how I had grabbed their wrists and I left red marks that apparently weren’t showing later,” said Dowell.

“Children are getting a lot more savvy these days. It used to be, ‘make the occasional [substitute] teacher cry.’ Now they know they can have you suspended.”

Without talking to Dowell, the school immediately called the Children’s Aid Society, which it is required to do by law, when there is an allegation of abuse.

“I thought I’d be treated as a professional colleague and I’d be given the benefit of the doubt and at least gotten a phone call afterwards to ask what had happened, from my perspective.”

Told to expect police

Dowell was removed from the board’s substitute teacher roster. Her union told her she might even be arrested.

“You are told police could come to your door any moment. What do you tell your family and friends? It’s a horrible situation to be in, knowing that you’re totally innocent,” said Dowell. “I knew I had never been alone with a child. I never put my hands on a child…but it felt like I was guilty until proven innocent.”

Dowell spent a month at home on partial pay, borrowing money to pay her bills, before the CAS concluded the allegation was unfounded.

The Children's Aid Society concluded the complaints against Dowell were unsubstantiated.The Children’s Aid Society concluded the complaints against Dowell were unsubstantiated.(CBC)“The Society…has determined that Ms. Dowell did not use excessive physical force with the students in her class or intentionally embarrass the student during her interactions with him in the lunchroom,” read a letter to Dowell’s lawyer from the York Region Children’s Aid Society.

“The Society is not substantiating any concerns related to the alleged use of physical force or public humiliation by Ms. Dowell, nor would the Society be concerned should Ms. Dowell return to her occasional teaching position.”

Dowell was then allowed to go back to work, but she still faces a probe by the school board, which is standard protocol when a complaint is made.

“These are separate investigations with different standards,” said Christina Choo-Hum of the York Regional School Board. “We have a much closer eye and more detailed approach to our investigation.”

Due diligence

When asked why a minor incident would lead to a full-blown investigation, Choo-Hum said, “If there is the slightest question [about a teacher] we err on the side of caution. It’s due diligence.”

Choo-Hum said no one from the school or the board would comment on Dowell’s case, because it’s a personnel matter. She said the board does not keep statistics on how many complaints against teachers it investigates, or what the outcome is.

Nadia Ciacci, president of the union representing 1800 occasional teachers in the York district, said she’s seen false complaints multiply every year, from none three years ago, to eight this school year. Ciacci said all were unfounded.

McGill University associate professor Jon Bradley has studied false accusations against teachers and said accusers who lie should be held accountable.McGill University associate professor Jon Bradley has studied false accusations against teachers and said accusers who lie should be held accountable. (CBC)“It’s devastating for teachers,” said Ciacci, who said one has left the profession as a result. “It’s important to ensure the safety of students, of course, but also to ensure the safety of teachers. The message has to get out there – that this has to stop.”

Jon Bradley, associate professor of education at McGill University, has studied false allegations against teachers. He knows one case where the teacher committed suicide. He said careers and lives are ruined, particularly for men falsely accused of sex abuse.

“It’s really a mess,” he said. “We seem to be almost afraid. We seem to be saying – if a kid makes an accusation it must be true. Kids don’t lie. That’s the first thing we say – kids don’t lie.”

He cited one case that should have been suspect from the start, because of how the nine-year-old girl characterized what happened.

“She said ‘he leered at me suggestively.’ I don’t know how many grade four students would use an expression like that.”

No consequence for accusers

He said parents and children involved in false allegations don’t face any consequences, and they should.

“What’s really sad in this is we’ve got adolescents making terrible accusations against teachers and getting off scot-free with absolutely no penalty whatsoever,” said Bradley.

Ciacci of the teacher’s union said she would like to see parents held legally responsible, perhaps through an amendment to Ontario’s Parental Responsibility Act.

“Look at the cost to taxpayers as well for the Children’s Aid involvement,” she said. “Parents need to be held accountable.”

Dowell said the group of Grade 5 students misbehaved and challenged her in class, then claimed she had abused them.Dowell said the group of Grade 5 students misbehaved and challenged her in class, then claimed she had abused them.(CBC)Choo-Hum said there is no school board policy or standards for dealing with students who make false allegations.

“Students are dealt with on a case-by-case basis [at the school level],” said Choo-Hum.

Dowell said she is confident the board investigation will also find she did nothing wrong. Regardless, though, she said she will never feel the same in the classroom.

“The next time I see a kid throw out a banana I am obviously not going to say anything. And next time I see belligerent, defiant behaviour – am I to turn the other cheek?” said Dowell.

““I feel very much I am damned if I do I am damned if I don’t.”