It can be shockingly easy for an upstanding educator to face unfounded accusations that require an investigation by the Department of Children and Families (DCF). As the law now stands, even when educators are cleared of all wrongdoing they still face the stigma of being labeled “alleged perpetrators.”
CEA attorney Chris Hankins spoke out on behalf of teachers before the Connecticut Legislature’s Education Committee Wednesday saying, “Through investigation by DCF, the vast majority of allegations of child abuse or neglect against teachers ultimately wind up being unsubstantiated.”
The safety and well-being of their students is of utmost importance to educators, and Hankins said that DCF does a great job finding and holding accountable individuals who pose a risk to children. Unfortunately, innocent educators are frequently caught up in investigations.
Education Committee member Senator Dante Bartolomeo said, “I know for a friend of mine, the allegations against her ended up being unsubstantiated but for six months her life was turned upside down.”
Senate Bill 323 before the Education Committee would lessen the stigma of an unfounded allegation by removing documents related to an event that was investigated yet found to be unsubstantiated by DCF.
Teachers’ personnel records are available to the public via the Freedom of Information Act, and Hankins said that having untrue allegations accessible to the public is unjust for an innocent teacher. When these records stay in an educator’s file, they can also prevent that educator from being hired by another school district.
Hankins, along with CEA’s other two legal counsels Melanie Kolek and Adrienne Delucca, represents CEA members involved in DCF investigations. Hankins said that, “In 2014 alone, there were two separate instances where a total of 11 teachers were labeled as ‘alleged perpetrators’ for fabricated incidents on the playground during recess when it was demonstrated that the child was not on the playground on the day in question or else the teachers were not assigned to recess duty.”
Education Committee member Senator Toni Boucher said, “This issue is a concern for many of us. I’m well aware of the effect on teachers.”