The Answer is YES!
In fact, a number of Indiana teachers and education employees have been investigated for child abuse. Many physical abuse charges have arisen out of corporal punishment. Inappropriate touches or hugs can lead to accusations of sexual abuse or “misconduct in office.”
Even if a child’s parents choose not to sue or to file charges at the time of an incident, the child can do so within two years after he or she reaches 18. In Indiana, there have been a number of cases where a classroom incident long since forgotten has come back to haunt a teacher years later in the form of civil and criminal charges.
One of an education employee’s most cherished possessions is his or her reputation. To guard yours, take these simple precautions:
Don’t leave your class unattended. Be sure your students understand your classroom rules. Make sure students are adequately supervised on field trips.
Don’t act in anger. Be sure to follow the school board’s policy when dealing with discipline.
If you must physically restrain a student in a discipline situation, use only reasonable force.
A hug or pat on the back may be fine for primary age children, but refrain from touches that may be misinterpreted by older children.
While details are still fresh in your mind, write out a description of any incident that you think may cause you liability problems later on. Note names and addresses or witnesses. Retain a copy of this at home, too.
A major benefit of membership in your Association—ISTA, NEA and your local association—is the providing of legal representation if child abuse charges are filed against you. Should you have this unfortunate experience, DO NOT GIVE ANY STATEMENT TO ANYONE. Call your UniServ Director immediately and ask for legal assistance.