Accused Of Hurting Children: An Educator's Worst Nightmare
After he was accused of corruption, Ronald Reagan's Secretary of Labor, Raymond J. Donovan, was forced by the public outcry to resign from his post in 1985. Later,when he was cleared of the charge, the only thing that Donovan had to say to the press was, "Give me back my reputation."
When an educator is charged with any sort of wrong-doing that involves children, it is next to impossible for the accused to ever fully recover his or her reputation, even though the educator may be clearly innocent.
Society's rule for educators seems to be, "Once a suspect, always a suspect." Many colleagues and members of the community will never look at the once-accused in quite the same way as they did before.
Here we have the case of elementary school principal Kevin M. Lindsey, age 50. Lindsey was serving as principal of McCormick Elementary School, near Baltimore, Maryland, when he was accused three months ago of sexually assaulting two former pupils in the 1970s.
On Ocotber 8th, Lindsey was relieved of his principal's duties and placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. He was then arrested and charged with two counts of sexually assaulting children.
Lindsey's nameless accusers, who are sisters, told the police that Lindsey, who was then a classroom teacher, had sexually assaulted them back in the '70s, when they were in the second and fourth grades. They said that memories of the incident had been repressed and only recently recovered by the now 34 and 35 year-old women.
After the police had questioned the accusers several times, the charges against the principal were dropped on December 29, 2004. Meanwhile, Lindsey's mother had died, and he had lost some 25 pounds of weight.
Lindsey is convinced that even though the "evidence" was flimsy at best, the police arrested him in order to see if any other students would emerge to substantiate the accusation.
After the charges were dropped, Mr. Lindsey said:
"Is it right to ruin someone's life just to go out there for a fishing expedition? That's what it was. Now they can say, 'We have no new victims,' but what price have I paid?"Lindsey considered suing his two accusers for defamation, but then decided against the idea. For any lawsuit to be successful, he would have to prove that the sisters' accusations had been deliberately leveled at him in order to damage him professionally.
A lawsuit against the police, however, is a different matter. Lindsey is weighing his options.
In spite of all this, Kevin Lindsey still had a strong desire to serve children. He was restored to his position as principal of McCormick Elementary School. He went back to work on Monday, January 18th. Everything is just as it was, except his pet fish, "Oscar" had died.
Lindsey was swarmed by children and staff who warmly welcomed his return, and was presented with a card that had been signed by every student in the school's kindergarten class.
That's the good news. And now for the not-so-good dose of reality:
For the rest of Mr. Lindsey's career, there will be whispered speculation about whether any of the girls' allegations were true. Some will say that there were probably other victims, who simply couldn't (or didn't want to) get involved. The gossip will continue for many years to come, in social gatherings of parents, professional workshops of educators, and faculty lounges throughout the district.
And so the question remains unanswered: "How does an educator get his or her reputation back even after the legal ordeal is over?"