In the nearly two months I was away from my students I wrote several posts as a way of processing my feelings about what was happening. Those feelings and what I understand/understood about what was happening have changed a lot in the past two months. That’s noticeable, at least to me, as I reread these. I’m sharing the posts as they were written because I want to remember where I was emotionally then. In addition, if anyone else has been through a similar experience or might in the future, I feel it is important to be open about it. There was a period of significant shame (and is still some shame) for me and not talking about the situation just increases the sense that it is shameful.
The short story, so that you don’t have to read all the other posts, is that a parent accused me of harming a child. I was placed on administrative leave while an investigation was completed. It took a far longer time than I had anticipated. Some of that was the fact that the allegation came just before the winter holidays. Some of that was, I believe, because Child Protective Services has far more cases than they can manage easily. They are seriously overworked in a job that is already seriously hard. I was finally interviewed by CPS one afternoon and got the call the following day that I was cleared to return to work.
To some extent, I went through almost a cycle of grief through this process. It began with guilt and feeling awful. It took some time (and help from others) before I could distance myself from the allegations enough to recognize that I didn’t do anything wrong and get past those feelings. I felt a lot of fear about losing my job and my entire professional sense of self. There was frustration at how long the process was taking. Anger was the one emotion I had very little of. I waited to share this story because I did not want to put the student in a rough position in any way. I have lots of thoughts and theories about what happened and why, but I do not have any anger toward the child or the mother. I don’t have any anger toward CPS either as I am grateful there are people out there listening to children and investigating to keep those children safe.
That said, I am immensely grateful to my union and the support I received from it. I’ve had little to do with my union in the 22 years I’ve been a member. I initially joined in my first year of teaching for exactly this reason. I wanted to know I had support if I were accused of something. I remained a member because I believe in the work they do in many different areas of education. I am beyond grateful that I never let that membership end.
I am not glad to have been through this process by any stretch of the imagination. But I did get a lot of things done at home that have been on my to do list for months (or even years). I had the time and energy to be a more present parent for my children for a bit. This time gave me a chance to see things, as a parent, a bit differently and I think that will be helpful for the future. I also learned something about how the process of investigating such accusations works.
That said, I’m so thrilled to be back at work and back with my students. They are fabulous even when they are exhausting me. I am lucky to have a job I love, a job that fulfills me and brings me joy. That is a gift.
The posts I wrote during the process are linked here: