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Wednesday, November 10, 1999 Published at 19:54 GMT


Education

Teachers warned of malicious accusations

Nigel de Gruchy says teachers are highly vulnerable to false claims

After the acquittal of a female teacher accused of indecently assaulting a pupil, a teachers' union has advised teachers never to be left alone with a pupil of the opposite sex.

Responding to the accusations made against drama teacher Renate Williams, who was cleared of all charges at Worcester Crown Court on Wednesday, teachers' union leader Nigel de Gruchy said that teachers were highly vulnerable to false allegations.

"Children know they can wreck careers and lives by making unfounded allegations," said Mr Gruchy. And even when teachers were cleared of accusations, he said many still left their jobs because of the publicity surrounding such cases.

To protect themselves from false claims, Mr de Gruchy said his union, the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, recommended that teachers should be "ultra careful" about the risk of accusation.

"No teacher should ever allow themselves to be alone in any context with pupils of the opposite sex."

'Vulnerable'

According to the NASUWT, the union defended 150 members against accusations of sexual misconduct - of which only seven resulted in convictions.

But the lives and careers of teachers falsely accused of sexual malpractice never recover from the experience, said Mr de Gruchy.

Ms Williams said that the claims of misconduct made against her were a problem that threatened the whole teaching profession.

"It is a sad fact that the teaching profession is today so vulnerable and easily exposed to untrue allegations of abuse or assault of any kind, even from the most unreliable of sources."



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