Sunday, March 27, 2005

Justice, justice thou shalt pursue .....

I would like to make it clear that I have no personal knowledge whatever of the case that I am going to refere to in this posting, and nothing written here should be construed as any comment on anyone directly involved, other than conclusions or comment based on press reports. I am also deliberately not providing links.

A case recently reported on from the UK involves a teacher at a Jewish school accused of sexual impropriety with a girl student, but fully and quickly aquitted of the four charges against him. It should be noted that concerning one of the charges, which was quite specific, it was conclusively proven in court that the teacher could not have been in the place alleged at the time alleged, and also that courts in the UK and elsewhwere are generally notoriously unsympathetic to teachers accused of abusing the trust placed in them - which makes a complete aquittal, with costs, very unusual. From my reading of the press accounts, as someone who has dealt with similar issues on several occcasions, it sounds to me as though the teacher was:

a) young

b) relatively inexperienced

c) somewhat charismatic

d) very sincere, and from a 'kiruv' background

-- and therefore

e) exceptionally vulnerable.

What horrifies me, however, is the willingness of some bloggers and commentors to jump to conclusions about this case, ignore the aquittal and treat the teacher as though he is guilty. (I wrote a huge posting on this, but it's too long to post. ) Anyone in authority WHO IS REASONABLY PROVEN to have acted inappropriately deserves every consequence. [In fact, in schools in Ontario the level of proof required is less than in some other areas. The courts recognise the complexities of dealing with adolescents, and implicitly recognise the experience of school Principals in those situations, subject to further accountability. In Ontario law - the remarks of Mr. Justice Cory in the Canadian Supreme Court in M v R are the benchmark]. Where adolescent emotions are involved, the investigator must tread very, very carefully. An accusation by itself cannot ever be the basis for a presumption of guilt.

But justice is a two-way street. Were they themselves ever to be accused of anything -- shoplifting, for example - any of those who are baying for blood in this case would demand proof from their accusers. And an injudicious, and possibly professionally immature transgression of the laws of yichud does not mean that a person's name and reputation should be published on the internet. That is simply daft; possibly also irresponsible and cruel.

Finally, I am concerned that while a teacher's name can be published on the internet all over the place, and wild speculations and accusations made, his accusers hide behind anonymity.

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