Category Archives: bullying

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.”

Follow Up to Falsely Accused Teacher


Some comments of my own on the next CBC article:  A few years ago I went hunting for scholarly articles on abuse of teachers and false accusations.  I found nothing.  Virtually everything was about children.  Male teachers are certainly at risk and one article I found stated that women over forty are at risk.  It didn’t speculate about why.

My own speculations?  Women over 40 are more vulnerable. They may need the job due to divorce or vested interest in the pension plan as a single person or due to starting their career teaching late or having interrupted it for family.  Yes, men need theirs, too, but at 40 a woman teacher often has a lot further to go before she reaches her 85 factor (that’s the sum of her age plus years of service) and even then she gets less.

A teacher with uninterrupted years of service from the age of 25, can retire at the age of 55.   He won’t have the maximum pension possible, but it will be respectable.  Should he choose to go on to the age of 6o i.e. 35 years of service in this scenario, he will retire with the maximum pension possible.  That is only if he starts teaching at 25 and is uninterrupted until age 55 or 60.

How is the pension calculated?  It is 2%  of the average of the 5 best years of salary per year of service up to 70% of salary.  This hypothetical teacher who started young can retire with either 60% or 70% of salary depending on when he opts to retire.

Now let us look at the woman of 40.  Let us assume she delayed entering teaching until she was 35, ten years older than the other teacher.  She will be 60 when she reaches her 85 factor but she will only receive 25 x 2 = 50% of salary as pension.  Should she hang in there until 65, she will have reacher her 95 factor. but she will only receive 60% of salary as pension.

In many cases a woman teacher is in her second career and cannot afford to quit teaching unless she has worked out a good fall back position for retirement.  Women know how close they are to an impoverished old age.

Women over forty are less attractive.  It shouldn’t matter.  It does.  As a (male) friend of mine put it, watching a twenty something preen as her looks got her to the front of the line at a club and a drink that someone else paid for: “Enjoy it, sweetheart, because in twenty years you will be invisible”.   A female teacher over 40 better have several arrows to her bow or she had better be out running to stay in shape and to run in the cancer races with the board supervisors.  It’s a good idea ladies, to die your hair blonde, wear some snug leather skirts or jackets and occasionally show a little cleavage.  Look around at women who are now becoming vice principals or principals.  There are a few invisible women but most of them are only seen without makeup when it melts off their faces at the end of a race.

So women over 40 lose part of their value just by virtue of their age.  For some they are valued less because they are women.  Sure their education,  hard work and character are valued (by some) but for some people, they are valued less because they are teachers.  There are a number of reasons why teachers are automatically devalued.

People with the same education and years in as teachers figure that if the teachers were worth anything, they would be doing a job that pays more.  People with less education may resent authority figures.  And for some people the simple act of telling someone to do something is seen as bullying.  A woman asking their son to do something is even worse.  This is anecdotal, but my observations have been that mothers (and fathers) are most likely to come to the defence of their sons.

Most people underestimate the education, experience and skill it takes to run a classroom.  Because the 30 people in the room are children, it can’t be that difficult.  It’s really babysitting and that is … women’s work.  Many parents think they know better; I have had one lout, a director general, tell me in front of his son that the book he had chosen from the ones I had offered for study was boring,  The DG had found a book intended for a thirteen year old boring.  This man also presumed to tell me how to run my classroom.

Woman teaching geometry, from Euclid's Elements.

Woman teaching geometry, from Euclid's Elements. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)