Iris Eben

He said, she lied

He said, she lied

He said, she lied

 

The Cobb County School Board operates under an implicit motto “Student accusers are always right”  like that of the service industry’s “The customer is always right.” A single false allegation by a disgruntled student can easily lead to a revoked teaching license and a reputation forever tarnished. Although Frank Robinson, former Lassiter High School guidance counselor and basketball coach, was found not guilty of sexual battery against a student earlier this month — he cannot teach. Give the vindicated man his teaching license back.

On December 8, 2009, fearful of a severe scolding from parents who would soon find out from Robinson her lackluster academic performance, a senior Lassiter High student told math teacher Melanie Nix, she had been fondled by Robinson in his office. Nix immediately reported the incident to administrators, and within days Robinson was charged and arrested for sexual and simple battery. Another student came forth claiming Robinson had made inappropriate comments towards her for the past year. Robinson was immediately suspended on paid leave. He was then forced to transfer to Kennesaw Mountain High, and later left after his license was revoked.

The community response to the allegations was overwhelming. According to The Marietta Daily Journal (MDJ), Morgan Hutson, a senior at Lassiter created a Facebook page called “Frank Robinson is Innocent” that had more than 1,000 members by the time of his hearing. Students showed support by rallying in front of the high school. Comments from the community on mdjonline.com as the events unfolded included one from user “Fmr Lassiter Parents” who said, “Our daughters were on the team when the alleged incident occurred, one of which felt that she needed to drive many hours from college to testify on his behalf. Never has there ever been a question of character involving Frank.”

Although many vouched for Robinson’s character and his unblemished 11 year career, the fact remained the same — both of the student accusers lied. And got away with it.

According to Georgia Professional Standards Commission (PSC) Code of Ethics for Educators, “….Provides guidance for protecting the health, safety and general welfare of students and educators…”  Note the “welfare of students and educators”. Yes, breaching the code of conduct by having sexual or inappropriate relationship with a student deserves a revoked license. But when the premise for a revoked license is found to be false, then the procedure should be amended for immediate re-instatement of a teacher’s license. This ensures vindicated teachers once again can earn an income, and may even help to dilute the stain left on their reputation. The Cobb county school board has made it evident that the welfare of teachers is secondary to that of students by repeatedly botching such investigations.

Robinson is not the first Cobb County teacher falsely accused of sexual misconduct with a student. In September 2005, special education teacher Gregory A. Leontovich was charged with sodomizing a 6-year-old girl in a Green Acres Elementary school bathroom.

“‘Innocent until proven guilty” may be a fine principle for bank robbers or even murderers,” wrote Mike King in the AJC. “But not child molesters. In the toxic smoke of such an accusation, surely there must be some fire, or hint of fire.”

King found that Cobb County police botched Leontovich’s investigation by asking for testimonies 10-11 weeks after the alleged incident. A similar situation happened with Robinson, who many in the community felt did not receive due process when he was faced with accusations.

PSC protocol requires Robinson to wait three years before he can have have his license re-instated. Professional Standards Commission representative Kelly Henson said, “Any educator who feels he/she has a unique set of circumstances” can make an appeal to have a revocation hearing before the three-year mark. In the meantime, that means Robinson is unable to to an earn an income doing what he loves — teaching.

The issue of false accusation is so acute, that in 2005 The National Education Association (NEA) produced a“Teach but Don’t Touch” pamphlet to educate teachers about preventative measures. “Students these days know all too well the consequences of an abuse complaint, and they know how to game the system,” warned Greg Lawler, an attorney with the Colorado Education Association and author of  Guilty Until Proven Innocent, which documents how false allegations can ruin careers and lives.

 

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image by :  Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier

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