Chances are pretty good you've seen it on television or read about it in the newspaper – a teacher has been convicted of sexual misconduct with a student. In 2005, Debra Lafave, an English teacher at Greco Middle School in Temple Terrace, Florida was convicted of having a sexual relationship with a 14-year old student. She plead guilty and was sentenced to three years of house arrest and seven years of probation, and she must register as a sex offender. However, what happens if you weren't guilty and have been accused of something you didn't do? Would you know what steps to take?
Know the Laws
The Education Commission of the States keeps a database on the education policies of all 50 states. Currently, there are no state laws that fully protect teachers against false allegations of child molestation. However, there are a couple of states that provide some sort of protection, although limited. In Connecticut, teachers should not be held responsible for damages and legal fees for lawsuits filed against them which are not malicious, deliberate, or intentional. In Iowa, teachers who are wrongfully accused in a civil suit should be awarded monetary compensation from the party who filed the civil suit.
Know Your Rights
If you are questioned by law enforcement, and you will likely be, it is important that you understand your legal rights. You don't have to answer any of their questions or make any statements to them. In fact, unless you are being detained, you can leave the police station. Even if you are arrested, you do have the right to remain silent as included in your Miranda Rights. In addition to law enforcement, you don't have to make any statements to your employer or anyone else until you have consulted with an attorney. Even if you are innocent of what you are being accused of, denying the claims could end up blowing up in your face. After all, wouldn't it be just as likely for a teacher who actually molested his/her children to also deny it happened?
Consult with an Attorney
You want to consult with an attorney immediately after being told of the accusations against you. Anything you tell an attorney is protected by attorney-client privilege, but anything you tell anyone else may be later used against you. Most importantly, an attorney can advise you of what you should and should not say as well as what you should or should not do. Your attorney can also take care of communications on your behalf.
Teachers wear many different hats and have a huge amount of responsibilities with their students. However, for whatever reason, teachers are sometimes wrongly accused of child molestation. If this is your case, knowing what to do and being prepared are the best criminal defense.
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