Sunday, January 17, 2016

A sexual harrassment charge; what do?

Believe it or not I was taught about teacher versus student sexual harrassment in college.  Yep.  The credential program.  We had classes that actually navigate potential interactions with students that could get you in trouble.  For instance; we had a situation were a student of the opposite sex might be flirting with a teacher.  What do?  Some credential students got too loose and sarcastic with the situation and were immediately told that this was not something to mess with.  Sexual harrassment charges, especially with male teachers, were a real danger. 

The number one piece of advice we recieved was preventative.  Make yourself as open as possible within your classroom and if there was any semblance of flirtation, slam the door on it.  I have taken that advice very seriously.  I have two doors in my classroom; one that leads outside and one that leads to a middle common area.  If a female student is in my classroom for any extended time frame the inner door is opened immediately.  No questions asked, no big deal, I just do it.  Colleagues are consistantly mingling in the common area along with students and often the doors of other classrooms are open.  It’s my safety valve and it is perfectly legitimate.  If a female student is going to be in my classroom after school for make-up work I’ll actually go to another teacher and tell them that a female student is in my room and they are doing whatever. 

No, I’m not kidding.  And not one time has one of my colleagues laughed, smirked, jeered, or felt that my statement was foolish in any way.  We are in a society were teachers are under a microscope and have little social leverage when an accusation is made. 

I bring this all up because there is an issue within our district that has now garnered some attention.   I know as much as the average person reading the newspaper so you’ll get no quotes about the issue from here.  But I was asked by a colleague what I would do if a student had falsely accused me of sexual harrassment.  My answer?

I would warn the student and the family of the student that since the accusation attempts to destroy my livelihood and means of income that I would sue them for defemation.  I would tell them that my lawsuit would involve taking their home, their monetary assests, their child’s tuition money, and every other thing they own.  You might see that as harsh.  I see the attempted destruction of a teacher’s career as harsh and yet society has become programed in the absolutism of the words out of the mouth of a child.  Take a look at parent/teacher interations and the attitude is now “believe the child and trust no one else”, something that wasn’t really that status quo years ago.

I have no idea what is going on within our district in this case.  Zero.  All I know is that if someone were to lie about taking away my love of teaching on a vendetta or a prank or a lie, they would pay for it.       

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