Abused Students Sue School District – Paul Chapel Case

AccusationThere’s a horrendous case making its way through the court system and I suspect you’ll be hearing more about it in the coming months. An elementary school teacher named Paul Chapel was accused of lewd acts against children and suspended. At issue is that Chapel was previously accused of such crimes and that the school district should not have hired him. Two of his former students are suing the School District for not considering his previous record and hiring him in the first place.

That’s where the case takes an interesting turn from a societal aspect. In the original case the jury was unable to reach a verdict and Chapel was released. There is a third case as well where Chapel showed a sexually explicit video and made inappropriate remarks to students. He lost that civil case and paid the plaintiffs.

Now, if a person is accused of crime but not convicted is it fair or even legal to refuse to employ them for another job? That’s the crux of the lawsuit filed by the abused former students. Is Paul Chapel facing his date in court now, yes. Is Paul Chapel very likely a filthy scumbag, yes. If someone has been accused of say, robbing a bank, is it really necessary that a bank employ that person in the future?

There are a number of cases of people being wrongly accused and it ruining their lives. It’s a really difficult situation made even worse in this case because the crime so horribly affects other people. Wikipedia suggests that between 2% and 10% of all sexual abuse accusations are false. This seems to occur largely in custody situations when a parent is convinced abuse occurred and “coaches” the child who originally denied such activity.

Many of you may remember a panic about satanic abuse a few years back. A now discredited psychologist’s report about satanic abuse led to the McMartin case. I won’t go into details but please take a look. I’m just trying to display how someone’s life can be destroyed through false accusations and asking whether the school district would have been unfair to deny Chapel a job when he was not convicted of a crime.

This case puts a terrible burden on employers. If a prospective employee has been accused, but not convicted, of a crime and they hire that person who then commits a similar crime, are they liable? If so, they certainly must not hire the person. But, by not hiring someone who was never convicted of a crime is that person’s livelihood being taken from them unjustly thus presenting more legal avenues?

It’s a really tough one considering the nature of the crime but I have to come to the conclusion the school district is not liable. The civil case in which Chapel was found guilty muddies the water even further. I would say that a district could easily refuse employment because of that situation but perhaps Chapel convincingly apologized, claimed religious salvation, admitted to a terrible mistake and promised never to do anything like it again. I don’t know the details but all that seems plausible.

As a society we must try to remember that false accusations occur and that people so tainted should be treated fairly. If we don’t then we simply encourage false accusations by people with an agenda against the accused. It happens all too often. We see a similar phenomenon in politics where once leveled, charges remain in voters minds regardless of their veracity. That’s fodder for another day.

This is a brutal one and I’d love to hear other people’s opinion. Let me know in the comments.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
New Release: The Hammer of Fire