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Spanish teacher faces sex abuse charges

A 31-year-old middle school Spanish teacher has been accused of sexually assaulting one of her students. The woman faces felony charges in connection with the incident, including first-degree aggravated sexual assault, second-degree sexual assault and endangering a child. She is also charged with an additional count of showing obscene material to a minor, according to local authorities.

School board officials say they have put the woman on administrative leave from her position teaching fifth- through eighth-grade students. She may be permitted to return after the trial if she is acquitted of the charges. The woman was expected to surrender herself to authorities late last week.

Prosecutors have been predictably tight-lipped about the case, releasing only essential details to protect the identity of the alleged victim. It is not clear whether the woman is accused of molesting a boy or girl. Additional research shows that the woman is a founding member of the Ocean County Drama Club, which is not affiliated with the school.

The case is still in its preliminary stages. Sexual abuse allegations against educators can cripple their career, even if the charges prove to be false. Many young people, especially those in middle- and high-school grades, dare each other to accuse teachers of molesting them so they can get attention. This has been recorded in numerous cases throughout the U.S. and elsewhere; yet, teachers always seem to be portrayed as guilty as soon as an allegation arises. Although it is not appropriate to blame the victims in these cases, both stories should be viewed skeptically until an investigation and trial can confirm the charges.

The woman may be provided with additional support by her teacher's union if she has chosen to join that group. The American Federation of Teachers, for example, can provide additional legal assistance for teachers who are accused in sexual abuse cases. This extra help can make a huge difference by removing the financial responsibility for legal counsel.

Source: The Daily Record, "Toms River school teacher faces sex charges over student," Anthony Panissidi, Nov. 28, 2012.

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