Sexual Misconduct in Education
A Book Review by Brian Risman, Publisher and Founder, The Law Journal UK
The book Sexual Misconduct in Education, written by Bowers and Knox, with Justice Marvin Zuker (a Contributing Author to this Journal ) as Consulting Editor, is an excellent work discussing a highly sensitive issue.
The book focuses on the impact on the Student Protection Act passed in 2002 by the Parliament of Ontario, Canada. However, the documenting of real cases, presenting of hypothetical scenarios, and clarifying of the changing reality in the school system, applies to all jurisdictions.
Readers of this work will gain an in-depth understanding of the issues facing all the players in this environment -- teachers, schools, administrators, police, social work, judges and politicians. The issue of vicarious liability for governments is especially interesting and relevant for parties beyond the actual offender. Likewise, the expanding fiduciary relationships of all parties in the school and legal system make liability in this area particularly important for participants to understand.
This book handles an ideologically explosive issue. As Judge Zuker stated in a recent brief on the issue:
Protecting our children hardly requires a defence. Perhaps that is why to inquire critically into the area of sexual abuse allegations related to the teaching profession is to walk on ideological thin ice. One risks being branded a contributor to the ‘conspiracy of silence’ among educators - in a perpetual ‘state of denial’, blindly defending a point of view that sexual abuse does not occur in schools. Equal peril is to be cast as a heresy if one suggests children sometimes lie, and as a result, false accusations of sexual abuse take place. To inquire critically into the issues relating to teacher-student sexual abuse is a problematic venture when these types of fallacious characterizations are presented unchallenged in the public discourse, gaining credibility and further acceptance in the eyes of the public. This is particularly evident when the media focuses its attention on an individual teacher, who is the subject of a sexual abuse allegation, without providing a balanced commentary of the issues related to teacher-student sexual abuse.
The above excerpt from Judge Zuker clearly pinpoints the value of this work. There are few, reasoned, non-ideological expositions of this topic. It is refreshing to see a work that falls into this class – for if there were more works of this calibre, there would be better legislation and secondary regulations. Problems would be handled with greater intelligence than the current method of action-reaction.
I highly recommend this book not only for those interested in this topic, but also as an object lesson of cool, reasoned research and exposition of this particularly heinous crime.
The book is published by LexisNexis Butterworths, ISBN 0-433-44170-4. Click here to access the web page for the book at LexisNexis.