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CEA Backing Legislation to Help Teachers Bearing Burden of Unsubstantiated Allegations

CEA Attorney Chris Hankins

CEA Attorney Chris Hankins testified before the legislature’s Education Committee on Wednesday.

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.”

One Comment
  1. Matthew Valenti #

    You Go Chris Hankins! I was a victim three times of these types of things when I was teaching. In each case I was totally innocent. Chris Hankins represented me each and every time. But the DCF outcome of “unsubstantiated” was a hollow victory for me, as I understood it stayed on my record. If I was innocent beyond a shadow of the doubt, and it was proven, then my record should be totally clean. When you are a tough teacher, kids make up things about you to get you in trouble. In my 40.5 years as a public school teacher, I was tough, but fair. I’m glad that Chris took this on. It’s about time teachers aren’t kicked around by DCF any more. I remember Chris told me that I was the poster child for unfairly accused teachers!

    March 3, 2016

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