“Just Saying.....” An Opinion Piece
By Kirk Winter
I noticed on one of the local newsfeeds that a local elementary teacher has been charged with assault. The police are involved, and the teacher has been removed from the classroom pending an investigation.
I am so conflicted on these kinds of stories. I am a father of three 20-something young men who are all products of the Trillium Lakelands School system. They received excellent educations from hard working and committed teachers. I can’t imagine what my reaction would have been if one of them claimed to have been assaulted by a trusted teacher. I know I would have wanted a complete, thorough and transparent investigation, and I certainly know I would have wanted my child’s accusations taken seriously.
I understand why the police were called, and applaud the Board for removing the staff member temporarily while an investigation is held into whatever may or may not have happened.
I am also a former high school teacher with 31 years' experience working for the local board. I can assure you that every teacher I know fears a wrongful accusation by a vengeful student or poorly informed parent. A career can be destroyed in the blink of an eye just by the accusation being made.
Not a single Ontario-trained teacher graduates the Faculty of Education without a clearly understanding their rights, duties and responsibilities towards their students. Teachers in Ontario are also governed by a College of Teachers who employ a phalanx of ex-police officers to investigate every report made by a member of the public against teachers. There are teachers who have committed heinous crimes and the College of Teachers was created to help police those incidents too.
After many of these investigations, the teacher is cleared, but they return as far different people than they were before. Their lives have been turned upside down. Even if cleared, they feel they have lost the absolute trust they previously held with their principal and parents, and that is sad. Some of these investigations can carry on for over a year, and having the accusation alone hanging over your head for that long a time period can age a person a decade in a year.
The worst part for many cleared teachers is that we in the press seldom report on their acquittals. The arrest has sizzle. The investigation and potential trial is click bait. The teacher being found innocent, as often happens, is ignored.
Let us hope for the child, parents, and teacher involved that the investigation is well executed, covers all bases and is completed in a timely manner. Both the accuser and the accused deserve nothing less, and you can rest assured that either the conviction or the dismissal of this case will be shared by this newspaper too as that is simply good reporting, and you as the reading public deserve nothing less.