It is no longer unusual for teachers to be charged with inappropriate actions. Most of these complaints come from students or their parents–not from administrators. Nor is it unusual for today’s teacher to send a student to the office, only to have that student turn the situation around by telling administrators that the teacher either touched him/her or said something racial or something just as inflammatory. UEA gets about one such call a week. In most cases, the teacher has done nothing wrong. Unfortunately, this does not stop the misery the teacher experiences. In many districts, the teacher is automatically placed on Administrative Leave pending investigation, but that is just the beginning of the problem. “The most horrible thing is what happens to the teacher’s good name,” said Jerome Wurst, a member of the UEA legal team. Wurst handles cases when a UEA member has been charged with a criminal offense. “People who have known the teacher for years begin to doubt him or her,” said Wurst. “The stress of such charges is humiliating not only to the teacher, but also to his/her family. Just as importantly, the teacher’s reputation is harmed, and it may never be recovered.” Wurst went on to say that teachers are sitting ducks when it comes to such charges. Wurst: “They work too closely and too many times alone one-on-one with children.” Coaches, choir directors, band directors, drama teachers, and anyone else who by the nature of his/her job must have extra contact with students outside the normal school day must be careful. Male teachers are especially vulnerable. Wurst said, “We have all known of the female fourth grade teacher who can walk in and clean out the boys’ restroom. We think nothing of it. But I don’t want to even think about what may happen to a male teacher who does the same thing in the girls’ restroom.” Wurst said that most of the teachers he represents never think anything will happen to them. Then they are called to the principal’s office, where a policeman reads them their rights. This could be for actions such as simply taking a student by the arm and escorting him/her to the office. Many students have learned that they can use such charges as a way to retaliate against the teacher. Unfortunately, there is little the teacher can do. The administration must investigate any and all charges. Sometimes the charges even make the newspaper. In most cases, the teacher is helpless to do anything while the investigation is in progress. When it is finished, the teacher–even if found innocent of all charges–is still left with little that can be done. “Lawsuits for slander or libel against children usually aren’t worth much because the child may have nothing to give but his/her bicycle,” said Larry Shaw, UEA Executive Director. “Unfortunately, most of the time, money, and energy are spent defending the teacher. The best policy is to avoid being alone with a child.” Shaw also warned teachers who might flirt or make advances toward students. “Such actions can end up with the teacher unemployed, without a certificate, without a family, and in jail,” said Shaw. “Any teacher who seeks the affection of a student, regardless of age, had better be ready to do the time, because nine out of ten times, he or she will lose everything.”