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How teachers can prevent sexual abuse accusations

People in all sorts of professions, including teaching, get accused of sexual abuse. In fact, teachers, because they are alone with students and exert a position of authority over them, are in an especially risky position. The consequences of such accusations, even if they are false, can be horrendous. You may lose your job and be required to register as a sex offender, for example. With a few proactive strategies, however, you can decrease your chances of doing anything that appears improper.

1. Always report suspected cases of abuse

As a teacher, you are a mandated child abuse reporter in many states, including North Carolina, and your school likely has guidelines for you to follow if you suspect abuse. Even if you think your suspicions may be off-base, it is best to play it safe and report. A failure to do so could prove problematic in the future.

2. Keep boundaries strictly professional

Be professional no matter what. For example, do not become Facebook friends with your students, and do not follow them on Twitter. If your child is friends with others in your class, treat these children as you would any other student when you are in school. If possible, do not cultivate relationships with your students outside of school. Of course in small community schools where you teach your children's friends, this may not be realistic. However, always avoid language that could be seen as suggestive, and do not touch students. This goes even for congratulatory shoulder pats. Never give out information such as your address or cellphone number.

3. Take care when in situations alone with students

It is probably unavoidable for you to be alone with students, but you have a lot of control over this aspect. For example, do not offer a student a ride home. If you do drive a student off campus, get another adult to ride with you, and ensure that administrators know what is going on. If you offer tutoring, try to do so in a public place such as a library. Likewise, if you teach young children and some of your tasks include changing diapers, do so only when another adult is around.

4. Keep records

Keep track of odd or suggestive comments that give you pause. Write down dates, who said what, your response (or lack thereof), and the events before and after.

Despite teachers taking the best of care, sexual abuse accusations do happen. Talking with an attorney may help you navigate the complicated process of an investigation. 

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