Moral panics can destroy lives, and the Providence Teachers Union is right to object to policies that give children the power to bump their teachers out of class, at least temporarily. Ted Nesi and Tim White report for WPRI:
The Providence Teachers Union is asking the city’s school department to change the way it handles allegations of abuse against students in order to prevent its members from being placed on administrative leave without reasonable cause.
In a letter to Superintendent Chris Maher, the union claimed students have been “emboldened to make allegations at a whim knowing that the teacher will be removed from the building with no questions asked,” with some “taunting teachers with threats” of contacting the R.I. Department of Children, Youth and Families with abuse claims.
Students have to be protected, of course, but giving them that sort of power is reckless. Trying to control the issue through punishments is also the wrong approach. Schools shouldn’t want to put themselves in the position that they’ve created an incentive for false accusations and then have to do harm to students’ future prospects because they were drawn in by that incentive.
We need to back off the notion that we can protect everybody from harm with top-down policies and instead allow human judgment to play a role. Another aspect of that approach is to dilute our sense that human beings are psychologically fragile to the point that every inappropriate word or touch should be assumed to have scarring damage.