Your primary role as an educator is to impart knowledge and guide students in their learning. For the most part, the close relationships you form with children in your classes is mutually beneficial and fulfilling. There are, however, risks involved when you teach minors. One of the most serious things that can happen to you is an accusation of child sexual molestation. Never discount or ignore any allegation of sexual abuse. Take immediate action to protect yourself and your career.
Often you become aware of a molestation allegation from your employer. Do not attempt to explain your innocence to your school’s administration personnel or anyone else. Resist the temptation to talk about it with other teachers, parents or students. Be aware that sometimes the press learns of accusations especially if the police arrest you. Never make a public statement.
Contact an attorney who specializes in the defense of persons accused of sex crimes. Meet with this professional as soon as possible. Tell your lawyer everything you know regarding the allegation and your relationship with the student involved so he can begin preparing to defend you. The accusation could result legal action if that has not already happened.
Research the laws to learn can happen when accused of molestation. In Minnesota, there are degrees of sexual offenses that range in severity. Find out what degree(s) you face and the penalties involved if a court of law convicts you. Review the charges and possible outcomes with your lawyer. Learn as much as possible about how the legal process works in cases similar to yours.
Contact your union representative or the NEA for help. They might supply you with a representative who can aid in your defense. Discuss this possibility with your attorney. Often your lawyer and a union representative will accompany you when police or social services persons interview you. Remember, never discuss your situation with anyone without your counsel present. Also, do not provide written statements to your employer, police or anyone else. Consult your attorney before taking any action on your own in regard to your case.
Gather as much evidence as you can to help your attorney prepare your defense. Create a list of potential defense witnesses including school personnel, students and others who you believe will provide information to help prove your innocence. Allow your attorney to interview these people rather than speaking to them yourself.
If an allegation specifies a specific date or time frame, review the interactions you had with the student during that period. Tell your attorney the details that occurred during any time you were alone with the minor and when others were present. Disclose all the information you can recall even if it seems damaging to you as your attorney needs to know everything as he prepares to defend you.
Steel yourself for a long process. While some matters resolve themselves quickly, others can consume many months. Keep your head up, stay in touch with your legal counsel and lean on loved ones for support. Avoid contact with the student involved and his/her parents. Stay productive even when suspended from your job. Keeping your mind and body active will assist you in avoiding depression and the overwhelming anxiety that can accompany molestation accusations.
Prepare yourself for when there is a resolution to the criminal allegation. Note that returning to your former position is not always possible. If convicted of a sex crime against a student, chances are you will no longer be allowed to teach minors in any school. Also, even if acquitted, you might choose to leave the education field. Unfortunately, even when found “not guilty”, your reputation is likely compromised. Take time to research your options and make the best choice for your future.
Contact us to learn more about defending yourself against accusations of sex crimes.