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Becca_H
05-10-2011, 11:17 PM
I'm not sure if there's any specific policies on this, but if anyone has an idea what the correct procedure would be, that'd be great. This story takes place in Los Angeles.

A 16-year-old female high school student makes an allegation that a teacher touched her and tried to kiss her. She first reports this to her homeroom teacher, as he's teaching a class, so 25 other kids know instantly and it'll spread within minutes.

Her allegation is completely false.

What would the school do? I assume they'd suspend the teacher pending an investigation, but what else would happen? Would she be allowed to stay in school? How and when would the police be involved? Would the media find out and what would they do?

How would the school investigate it? In addition to the procedure, what would happen if:

- The allegation was upheld. What would happen to the teacher?

- There's evidence the allegation was malicious. What would happen to the student?

- There's no real evidence either way?

- What would happen if she confessed it was false?

Ideally, I need the allegation to be proven as malicious and the girl sanctioned for it. This is YA, so I want to be extremely careful and accurate with how I handle it.

Also, how would the procedure change if the allegation was against another student (under eighteen)? I'm still in an early draft and there's plenty of room for change if I need to.

cate townsend
05-10-2011, 11:45 PM
I can't answer all your questions, but a similar incident happened in a nearby school district in my town and the teacher was put on leave with pay. It was a female teacher, and she was reportedly having inappropriate relations with a male high school student. Yes, I think the media would find out (it was in my town's newspaper).

You might Google for news stories of actual accounts of similar situations happening, to get an idea of how it was dealt with. You could also go directly to the source, and contact a community officer from LAPD. That would probably net you the most accurate information. Good luck!

jclarkdawe
05-11-2011, 12:13 AM
I'm not sure if there's any specific policies on this, but if anyone has an idea what the correct procedure would be, that'd be great. This story takes place in Los Angeles. There are variations, and I'm going to assume there's some level of variation even within the LA school system.

A 16-year-old female high school student makes an allegation that a teacher touched her and tried to kiss her. She first reports this to her homeroom teacher, as he's teaching a class, so 25 other kids know instantly and it'll spread within minutes. The teacher should contact the office immediately. An administrator should be sent to the classroom where the student made the allegation. (I'm assuming this is two separate teachers.) The teacher against whom the allegation is made would be removed immediately from the classroom and a substitute put in the class. The accused teacher would have the allegation made against him, and the union rep would be notified. The teacher would probably not make any comments at this time, and would be placed on paid leave. The teacher would be directed by the union rep to contact the union's attorney.

Meanwhile, back in the classroom where the accusation has been made, the teacher would be removed from the classroom while the administrator takes over. That teacher would be sent to the office, where he/she would explain what happened. He would then repeat the story to the principal, then to the highest official in the school district, then to the police.

Meanwhile, the accuser would also be escorted to the office, where she would go through the same process of explaining her story.

Meanwhile, back in the classroom, the students would be held there, and probably cell phones confiscated. Part of this is to keep the story quiet as long as possible, but also you don't want witnesses to be swayed by outside influences. An administrator would talk individually to each student, getting a statement from each. The police might also want to talk to each student.

Police would be contacted as soon as it seems likely that the student made a credible statement. This does not mean that the student's statement is true, but that there is a possibility that the statement is true.

Her allegation is completely false.

What would the school do? See above. I assume they'd suspend the teacher pending an investigation, but what else would happen? See above. Would she be allowed to stay in school? Yes, pending the outcome of the investigation. She might be transferred to another school in the district. How and when would the police be involved? See above. Would the media find out and what would they do? Not from either the school or the police. But I'm sure once the story gets around, one of the kids or parents would contact the press. The school would issue a general statement. The police might say that there is an ongoing investigation.

How would the school investigate it? By talking to the student and the teacher. By looking at the totality of the student's and teacher's records. By looking for supportive information. In addition to the procedure, what would happen if:

- The allegation was upheld. What would happen to the teacher? Teacher would be fired, his teacher certificate lifted, and arrested for sexual assault. Teacher would probably end up with some jail time.

- There's evidence the allegation was malicious. What would happen to the student? Student could be potentially expelled from school. Student could be charged with lying to police if she repeated her statement to them.

- There's no real evidence either way? Unlikely. It's hard to maintain a consistent story if you're making it up. This is why investigations consist of multiple telling of the story.

- What would happen if she confessed it was false? A lot depends upon how far into the process it is before she confessed. Bottom line would be expulsion from school, criminal charges for lying to the police, and a massive civil suit from the teacher.

Ideally, I need the allegation to be proven as malicious and the girl sanctioned for it. This is YA, so I want to be extremely careful and accurate with how I handle it. You get a judge pissed enough about the situation and a charge of lying to the police, and she could end up in jail for a year or so. More reasonable maximum is a whole boatload of community service hours.

Also, how would the procedure change if the allegation was against another student (under eighteen)? I think you can figure out the changes. Severity of the consequences for the assaulter comes down markedly. A teacher could be facing years in prison, while a fellow student would probably only get a few months at worse. I'm still in an early draft and there's plenty of room for change if I need to.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Kitty Pryde
05-11-2011, 12:16 AM
hey, and don't forget that the LA school district (LAUSD) has its own police force (LASPD)distinct from LAPD, so if it's a public school within the district chances are they will at least be around and involved, thought I don't know to what extent. http://www.laspd.com/

Kewii
05-11-2011, 12:02 PM
A situation like this happened in my high school. A student accused a teacher of being inappropriate. The teacher was removed. There was a court case.

It was then proven the student had lied about the allegations.

The student received a suspension.

The teacher was moved to another school (in our district) to work. I don't know if it was at his request, but the other teachers were pissed. (They were so pissed they later got a student expelled for a similar situation).

PinkAmy
05-11-2011, 06:06 PM
I'm not sure if there's any specific policies on this, but if anyone has an idea what the correct procedure would be, that'd be great. This story takes place in Los Angeles.

A 16-year-old female high school student makes an allegation that a teacher touched her and tried to kiss her. She first reports this to her homeroom teacher, as he's teaching a class, so 25 other kids know instantly and it'll spread within minutes.

Her allegation is completely false.

What would the school do? they are legally required to call the cops
I assume they'd suspend the teacher pending an investigation, but what else would happen? Suspension with pay OR desk duty in an administration building. The school would hire attorneys to cover their ass. They aren't supposed to do their own investigation, because it can taint a police investigation, but they probably would anyway to cover their asses. letters would probably be sent home to parents. There might be an assembly to talk about what happened and to urge other victims to report, likely the police and counselors would be involved

Would she be allowed to stay in school? Of course, she's a victim (except she's not)
How and when would the police be involved? Legally the school is a mandated reporter--all teachers and personnel, so the police should be involved within minutes of a report.
Would the media find out and what would they do? In this day and age, I'm sure people would leak to the media, if only for their 15 minutes of fame. I'm sure the school would urge students (and forbid personnel) not to speak the the press.

This is a support and advocacy group for students molested by teachers. They could help you with the legalities http://www.sesamenet.org/ . Years ago I knew the woman who started the group, not sure if she's still running it.

How would the school investigate it? The police wouldn't want the school to investigate until after they have finished their own investigation.
In addition to the procedure, what would happen if:

- The allegation was upheld. What would happen to the teacher? The teacher would be arrested, would probably be given bail and part of that would include no contact with minors. Then the teacher would just have to wait for trial.

- There's evidence the allegation was malicious. What would happen to the student? she would be arrested for giving a false allegation, if there are psychiatric issues, she might not be prosecuted. If not, the DA might want to make an example of her and prosecute her for lying to them.

- There's no real evidence either way? the police would decline to prosecute, but the teacher's image would be tainted. The school would try to find their own evidence to have him (or her) fired, because the teacher would always have to deal with the threat of another true or false allegation. The teacher would probably resign, and get a positive recommendation. The teacher might try to teach at the college level or might give up teaching all together. I assume it would be traumatic to be falsely accused and have your life turned upside down.

- What would happen if she confessed it was false? She would still get arrested, but the DA might be less inclined to prosecute or might strike a plea bargain for community service and therapy.

Ideally, I need the allegation to be proven as malicious and the girl sanctioned for it. This is YA, so I want to be extremely careful and accurate with how I handle it.One of the reasons I respect you so much is your eye for detail and accuracy. this is plausible, although proving the allegation was malicious would be difficult without a confession. I do hope you will make a point to stress that a malicious allegation is uncommon, so not have your audience think victims shouldn't be trusted. Reporting sexual abuse is difficult and I would hate for a reader who was being abused to worry she won't be believed. Real molesters choose their victims "wisely." They pick victims who are unlikely to report or likely not to be believed. If you can put a real victim (not necessarily of that teacher) into the plot that would be a great way to balance how devastating a false allegation can be to a true victim, I think you'd hit a home run.
Unless there are emails or texts, the evidence would likely be considered hearsay or circumstantial. If she's normally a good girl and the allegation was out of character, proving maliciousness would be difficult. If she's been in trouble in school or with the teacher, it would be easier.

Also, how would the procedure change if the allegation was against another student (under eighteen)? This is trickier. Legally the student is innocent until proven guilty, just like any suspect. The police conduct an investigation, and urge the suspect to avoid the victim. The victim might be able to get a protection from abuse order (PFA,) not much evidence is needed for that. The school could suspend the boy, but if the suspension was appealed it would likely be negated. If the boy was a sports hero, people probably would be less inclined to believe the victim, including the administration.

All the comments I've made are about PUBLIC schools. Private schools can play by their own rules, they have greater latitude in firing teachers or kicking students out of school, but the same legalities of being mandated reporters etc. apply.
I'm still in an early draft and there's plenty of room for change if I need to.

Once again, you've got another great idea. I hope you'll consider putting a real victim in your story, too. I'm biased, as a victim of child sexual abuse, I've seen my abusers and others claim allegations were false, so we particularly loathe anyone who would fake such a horrible thing.
SESAME used to have a toll free phone number. I think you'll get better info from them if you don't mention that your MC is lying about her abuse ;).

Kitti
05-11-2011, 06:29 PM
Also, how would the procedure change if the allegation was against another student (under eighteen)? I'm still in an early draft and there's plenty of room for change if I need to.

Keep in mind that any sort of sexual relationship between a high school teacher and a 16-yr-old student is illegal regardless of the student's consent, whereas a 16-yr-old and 18-yr-old CAN date one another and so investigations will probably hinge more on whether there is evidence of an assault, as opposed to evidence of a relationship.

Also, if this goes on for very long, your teacher is going to be completely traumatized and - depending on how the community comes back to support her - might quit teaching and/or move. There will also probably be lawsuits. Lots of lawsuits.

Becca_H
05-11-2011, 11:11 PM
Thank you so much for your replies everybody - very, very helpful. Especially PinkAmy, you've certainly highlighted some factors that I definitely wouldn't have considered otherwise.

This was originally a subplot, which due to the nature of it, expanded into something much larger and more serious. I'll definitely see how easily I could work a real victim into the story.

Proving the allegation was malicious may be feasible. I've considered having an external security camera that just so happened to be looking inside the room when the alleged incident happened.

Rowan
05-12-2011, 02:11 PM
Hey, Becca:
Not sure if you know this or not, but jclarkdawe (Jim) is an attorney. :) So I'd pay close attention to his responses.

PinkAmy
05-12-2011, 03:32 PM
Proving the allegation was malicious may be feasible. I've considered having an external security camera that just so happened to be looking inside the room when the alleged incident happened.
This might prove the allegation is untrue, but it wouldn't show she did so for malicious reasons. She could have been a real victim (of another person) who misinterpreted the teacher's actions (her defensive attorney might go that route). It could be a cry for attention that went awry. Or it could be totally malicious, revenge for a failing grade etc. If she had an online journal that said she was going to 'get" the teacher, or if someone overheard her saying she was going to make him pay, that would substantiate the malicious claim.

jclarkdawe
05-12-2011, 03:49 PM
As PinkAmy says, schools are mandatory reporters, but they do have some level of responsibility to investigate. A school has to determine whether there is some credibility to the accusation before referring it to the state. If you believe everything teenagers say, you're going to get into trouble.

If a security camera would show the situation, the administration would review the video before referring this to the police. If this gets solved quickly, it's not going to be much of a blip in the school system.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

PinkAmy
05-12-2011, 09:19 PM
le.

If a security camera would show the situation, the administration would review the video before referring this to the police. If this gets solved quickly, it's not going to be much of a blip in the school system.


I'm a psychologist and a mandated reporter. I have to report the incident, even if I think a client is lying. It's not my job to investigate. I can't say the client has a history of lying (confidentiality), but I can hint at it. I have been to more than one training from the state office (I forget which department, the one where the 800-4AChild calls goes to) for the legalities of reporting, most as a student but one was in a job. Maybe the rules vary from state to state. In Pennsylvania, schools are required to report any allegation, even one they believe to be false, not to make a judgment. They can get in major trouble if they don't. The school, however, has the luxury of telling the cops the girl has a history of lying or that the video doesn't substantiate her story. Therapists do not.
I remember at least one case where a sexual assault in school wasn't reported to police because the school did an investigation. The perp went on to repeat his offense, the parents of the original victim went to the media to blast the school (of course, the parents could and should have reported it themselves, they assumed the school had reported it.) The school was sued by both victims. I think there have been more cases, I read a lot about issues with kids and sometimes the stories run together.

jclarkdawe
05-13-2011, 02:49 AM
Apparently the rules are a bit different state to state. New Hampshire and Massachusetts permit schools and psychologists to not report allegations that are patently false. For example, kid makes allegation to friends, overheard by teacher. Teacher confronts student, and student says he/she was just goofing. Student has a reputation for that sort of thing. No report required. However, if in doubt, report.

Pennsylvania must get buried in reports. It makes me wonder how it has the resources to do this.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Becca_H
05-13-2011, 06:25 PM
Yeah, it's supposed to be a cry for attention gone very wrong (it wasn't even premeditated), so she has to decide if she's going to continue lying or come clean.

Just some questions regarding the police, which are pretty vague, but it'd help give me an idea of how to handle this element of the story:

Where would they interview the girl?
Would she need a parent present?
What about a lawyer?
Would they interview her repeatedly, or just once or twice?

PinkAmy
05-13-2011, 06:44 PM
Apparently the rules are a bit different state to state. New Hampshire and Massachusetts permit schools and psychologists to not report allegations that are patently false. For example, kid makes allegation to friends, overheard by teacher. Teacher confronts student, and student says he/she was just goofing. Student has a reputation for that sort of thing. No report required. However, if in doubt, report.

Pennsylvania must get buried in reports. It makes me wonder how it has the resources to do this.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Wow--for psychologists, too? I wonder how that overlaps with licensing requirements and codes of ethics for therapists. I assume the licensing requirements, if they are stricter about reporting, would prevail. I'm surprised the teachers don't have to report at all, even if they report this is likely a false allegation. Do they need any type of documentation?

There was a wonderful movie from Canada, Liar, Liar: Between Father and Daughter http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107400/usercomments about an 11-year-old with a penchant for lying, misbehavior, and bullying. After he father punishes her she accuses him of sexual abuse. Hardly anyone believes her including her siblings, but the father is prosecuted. Toward the end of the movie it looks like she lied about the abuse, but it turns out the father abused the son and finally the older daughter, the main character's biggest critic, admits he abused her too. I guess the point I'm trying to make is that I wouldn't want to be the one deciding whether or not to report based on what might seem on the surface to be lying or mischief when those things could also be defense mechanisms for abuse.

PinkAmy
05-13-2011, 06:57 PM
Yeah, it's supposed to be a cry for attention gone very wrong (it wasn't even premeditated), so she has to decide if she's going to continue lying or come clean.

Just some questions regarding the police, which are pretty vague, but it'd help give me an idea of how to handle this element of the story:

Where would they interview the girl? depends on where she is when they first contact her. They might take her down to the station or if they come to her home, they might do the initial interview in her home.
Would she need a parent present? as a victim, no parents wouldn't be pregnant though they might have a 2-way mirror where they can watch. If she under suspicion of a crime, then they would have to be present if she's under a certain age (though this might vary by state.) In some places a minor can't sign away her miranda rights.
What about a lawyer?
Would they interview her repeatedly, or just once or twice? They will try to keep the interviewing to a minimum for victims, because it's traumatic. Also, repeated questioning and retelling of the story can hurt potential trial testimony as the victim can come across as rehearsed or inauthentic. The more she tells her story, the less power emotional as she gets desensitized. Therapeutically, this is a good thing, though for testimony not so good. But, your MC isn't a victim...

I can only say what happens to victims in my state. This might be different if the police suspect a false allegation. If she was a child, there are specially trained investigators (either with the police or child welfare) who interview kids in what resembles a play therapy room. This is usually taped and observed through a 2-way mirror. They usually use anatomically correct dolls, they have easels and drawing/painting materials, and other toys used to help calm the child's anxieties and to have her (or him) different venues for expression. The interviews would take place over several days, depending on how much the child talks.
I've not personally seen a teenager interviewed in one of these rooms, but I would imagine if the teen was too traumatized to speak, they would try using one.

jclarkdawe
05-13-2011, 09:03 PM
Yeah, it's supposed to be a cry for attention gone very wrong (it wasn't even premeditated), so she has to decide if she's going to continue lying or come clean. The longer she continues, the harder this is going to be to end. Very quickly it will take on a life of its own.

Just some questions regarding the police, which are pretty vague, but it'd help give me an idea of how to handle this element of the story:

Where would they interview the girl? Depends upon the police department. Initially the interview would probably be done at the school, and if the school has one, with the school's resource officer present. Further interviews might be done at the police department, at youth services, at a counselor's office, or at the prosecuting attorney's office. It depends.

Would she need a parent present? It depends. Definitely if she's potentially in trouble, yes. But if she's just a witness? It's hard to say. However, the parents will be notified very early on. Age makes a big factor here, with younger kids being more likely to need parents.

What about a lawyer? Not unless she's being investigated for a crime.

Would they interview her repeatedly, or just once or twice? It depends. How coherent is her story? How consistent is her story? You need to understand humans do not have 100% recall. Each time we tell a story, it varies slightly. Eventually it can actually morph into a new story, yet still be the "truth" as far as the teller is concerned. Investigators are listening for both inconsistencies and also the lack of inconsistencies. If the story is holding well, you don't want to interview too often. If the story isn't, you keep working at it.


Wow--for psychologists, too? I don't know what the standards are for psychologists. I wonder how that overlaps with licensing requirements and codes of ethics for therapists. I assume the licensing requirements, if they are stricter about reporting, would prevail. Licensing requirements would always prevail. I'm surprised the teachers don't have to report at all, even if they report this is likely a false allegation. Do they need any type of documentation? Teachers would report it to the school administration, but it would end there. There is documentation maintained, although it might be scant.

There was a wonderful movie from Canada, Liar, Liar: Between Father and Daughter http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107400/usercomments about an 11-year-old with a penchant for lying, misbehavior, and bullying. After he father punishes her she accuses him of sexual abuse. Hardly anyone believes her including her siblings, but the father is prosecuted. Toward the end of the movie it looks like she lied about the abuse, but it turns out the father abused the son and finally the older daughter, the main character's biggest critic, admits he abused her too. I guess the point I'm trying to make is that I wouldn't want to be the one deciding whether or not to report based on what might seem on the surface to be lying or mischief when those things could also be defense mechanisms for abuse. There are so many possibilities of what's going on which is what makes this so hard. And someone always has to decide. The whole thing is a balancing act, because you don't want to destroy someone's reputation and you surely don't want an abuser to get away.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Canotila
05-14-2011, 09:28 AM
Apparently the rules are a bit different state to state. New Hampshire and Massachusetts permit schools and psychologists to not report allegations that are patently false. For example, kid makes allegation to friends, overheard by teacher. Teacher confronts student, and student says he/she was just goofing. Student has a reputation for that sort of thing. No report required. However, if in doubt, report.

Pennsylvania must get buried in reports. It makes me wonder how it has the resources to do this.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Washington State has similar laws to Pennsylvania regarding mandatory reporting. They don't always do an investigation based on a single complaint. What they want is to have a record of comments or incidents, and if they see an alarming pattern emerge then they will sometimes do an investigation based on that. Or if separate allegations come out later, it can be helpful for the caseworkers and police to have a history of suspicious things vs. nothing to go on.

I've had to report comments that didn't amount to anything at the time I reported them, but a few years down the road something happened and investigations were done based on the history and questionable incident combined. Children were removed from dangerous situations that might not otherwise have been caught.

PinkAmy
05-14-2011, 02:35 PM
Washington State has similar laws to Pennsylvania regarding mandatory reporting. They don't always do an investigation based on a single complaint. What they want is to have a record of comments or incidents, and if they see an alarming pattern emerge then they will sometimes do an investigation based on that. Or if separate allegations come out later, it can be helpful for the caseworkers and police to have a history of suspicious things vs. nothing to go on.

I've had to report comments that didn't amount to anything at the time I reported them, but a few years down the road something happened and investigations were done based on the history and questionable incident combined. Children were removed from dangerous situations that might not otherwise have been caught.
Good point that I didn't mention. Also, not all reports are considered equal. An anonymous report doesn't hold the same merit as a report with a name attached etc.