A former lecturer at the University of Bradford has written a book highlighting the issue of false accusations made against teachers and the “devastating” impact on their lives and careers.
Colin Neville drew on several cases for his novel, Millstone, about a male teacher who falls victim to pupils’ unfounded allegations and is labelled a paedophile.
Mr Neville said the book is not based on personal experience, but he decided to explore the issue in fiction following rising reports of false allegations against teachers.
“In a Department for Education survey of abuse allegations in England over 12 months, nearly half the allegations made against teachers were malicious, unsubstantiated or unfounded,” he said.
“The internet and social networking has contributed to the rising number of cases. Pupils can make allegations online and while it can be difficult to prove, it can be harder to disprove.
“Teachers now face threats that pupils are ‘going to get them’ and they have to be very wary of any possible misinterpretation of incidents.”
“The incident is fictitious, but the procedural element is based on fact. I wanted to show what happens when an accusation has been made,” said Mr Neville, a retired lecturer at the University of Bradford’s School of Management.
“I’m not presenting this teacher as heroic – he’s flawed and foolish – but the claims against him are false.
“The book also looks at the power of relationships in schools. This man is an unconventional teacher in a conventional school, who gets on the wrong side of the headteacher. When the accusations are made, he gets caught up in a web of moral panic by ‘experts’, who believe he’s a paedophile. He later discovers that, despite efforts to clear his name, mud sticks. Social networking plays a big part in his downfall.”
Mr Neville, of Silsden, said falsely-accused teachers often never recover from their ordeal.
“Schools are placed in a difficult situation and they have to investigate. Sexual abuse against children by people in authority positions is a disgusting crime and of course accusations should be taken seriously, but we must not forget the profound impact of malicious complaints on the lives of those on the receiving end,” he said.
* Millstone, by Arts Council-sponsored publishers FeedARead, is £6.99.