Every week it seems there is a case against an educator in the news in some school in Alabama. In fact, Alabama has one of the highest rates for criminal cases against teachers in the country. I know that some of these cases are legitimate, but not all of these cases are valid. The alleged conduct can destroy the careers and lives of great teachers.
There was a case in Alabama recently where a teacher was cleared two years later after an allegation of sexual misconduct with a student. The teacher lost her job, home, position in the community and was mentally destroyed. In fact, although she was cleared, she will never step into another school again.
In a recent case from Dekalb County, Alabama, Lewis v. Mitchell, a teacher paddled a student because the student did not do his homework. The student claimed that he was paddled for failing a test. The parent filed a claim against the teacher for assault and battery, and injury to the student. The mother provided pictures of bruises to the student. Also, the superintendent of the school board testified that the use of corporal punishment because a student made a bad grade is a violation of the board’s policies. The superintendent also stated that it is against the board’s policies to use such force that bruising would result.
The teacher claimed that he was entitled to state immunity in his role as an educator. The trial court agreed and dismissed the case. The mother appealed and the appellate court reversed. The appellate court relied on In Ex parte Monroe County Board of Education, which held that because a teacher did not adhere to the local school board’s policy, she exceeded the scope of her authority and therefore, was not entitled to immunity.
Educators are the real heroes in the world today. Often teachers are given such little credit for their work, sacrifice and money they invest in their own classrooms. I know that in any profession there a few bad examples that make the news. However, the excellent teachers and educators do not get the recognition they deserve.
In the coming months, I will be writing on a series of these type of cases. I do not believe that all Alabama education professionals should be labeled in the news from an arrest. I believe that Alabama educators should have a proper defense before they have their careers and lives destroyed. Most of these type of cases, receive attention on the news programs and internet articles because someone wants to make a name for themselves as a law enforcement officer. The teacher is branded as guilty in the press before any evidence is presented in court.
My advice to any education professional or school employee is to seek legal counsel before you make any statement to a superior. Often, teachers or school employees are fearful to ask for counsel because it may give an impression that they are guilty. You have a right to have counsel before you make a statement. You have your whole life at stake. Your family, career, and reputation in the community are worth protecting and fighting for.