A survey by a UK teachers union has raised concerns that many teachers and school staff — more than one in five — are being subjected to false allegations of misconduct by students. Teachers are being accused of various forms of abuse and/or bullying at higher rates than these actions are actually occurring, according to the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.
Results that the survey of 685 professionals in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland found:
— 14% were wrongly accused by the family member of a student
— 65.9% reported that the incident was said to have taken place while they were working with a group or class
— 24.2% of the fabricated incidents supposedly took place on school or college premises outside of class
— About half said that the claim was dismissed
— 30.2% stayed at work while it was investigated
— 5.7% were suspended
— 4.2% received disciplinary action
— 7.5% said that the police had been notified of the claim
One respondent, quoted by Rose Taylor of the Daily Mail, said:
The child admitted he was making up the allegation of bullying because I had told him off for a genuine offense.
Some surveyed teachers said that the fear of being falsely accused has motivated them to leave the profession entirely.
Kevin Rawlinson of The Guardian quoted a Kent primary school teacher:
The increasing occurrence of allegations is one reason why I will be leaving the profession sooner than I would like to. Poor parental discipline is leading to children always wanting their way.
Unable to discipline children without a comeback has meant [sic] this sort of incident will escalate and very good teachers will be driven out when they are most needed.
Currently, the law protects the anonymity of accused teachers until authorities have verified the claim. A majority of the teachers (94%, according to Mark Ellis of the Mirror) wanted the rules to be extended to other school workers, like librarians and teaching assistants.
Another teacher said:
My late husband was falsely accused by a child he taught. Though the Crown Prosecution Service held that there was no case to answer, he was a broken man.
He returned to work briefly, but had lost his nerve. The false accusation of one child, who was in an abusive home situation, wrecked our family life. My husband died of a sudden heart attack in his 50s.
Sky news quoted David Guiterman, the ATL's branch secretary in Cornwall:
Even if the allegation is shown to be false it leaves a lasting scar. In a local case, a member decided to resign, even though the allegation was shown to be false. He did not want to carry on lecturing.
The aim of the survey is to determine how best to support teachers who have been falsely accused. A spokesman for the Department of Education said:
We understand the variety of pressures teachers face, which is why through our plan for education we have taken a number of measures to support them.
We recognize the extreme damage which can be caused to teachers who have false allegations made against them, which is why we have made clear to schools and colleges that staff should be supported throughout, and are able to return to focusing their energies on teaching as swiftly as possible.