For people in Washington who work with children, like teachers, coaches and mentors, accusations of an inappropriate relationship with one of their wards can be devastating. Defending yourself as loudly and assertively as possible will be your first instinct, but a more measured approach might serve you better overall.

Educator misconduct statistics

A 2023 study of 6,632 recent high school graduates in four states found that 11.7% of respondents had experienced some form of educator sexual misconduct. The vast majority (11%) reported inappropriate sexual comments, with less than 1% reporting other forms of misconduct, like kissing, touching or intercourse/oral sex.

With those depressing numbers and public awareness of these issues being at an all-time high, accusations can ruin careers even before an investigation. What can you do during this tenuous period?


Cooperate with the investigation

An investigation will likely follow a substantive accusation. It won’t bring instant exoneration, but cooperating with the police and school officials is probably the best chance you have at eventually clearing your name.

Sometimes people panic and will try to delete or hide possibly damaging evidence, like photos or social media posts. Tampering with unflattering evidence, even if it’s unrelated to the case, will do far more harm than good if people notice the tampering.


Resist the urge to discuss the allegations

The temptation may be high but resist the urge to discuss the situation with colleagues, parents and certainly not your other wards. You should avoid social media all together. You will have to accept that justice will likely be slow, but your name will eventually be cleared.


The accused need support, too

While discussions with colleagues should be avoided, seeking support and advice from close friends and loved ones can greatly reduce the stress and worry that accompanies misconduct investigations. Their emotional support and perspective can guide you during this challenging time and even help you organize your defense.

Lastly, you will most likely need legal assistance. A popular myth is that hiring an attorney who specializes in sex crimes will make you look more guilty. On the contrary, you will want the guidance of the most experienced attorney you can find. Inexperienced attorneys may do more harm than good.