Content warning for discussion of a teacher arrested for sexual touching of students.
Earlier this month, as I was sitting in the airport getting ready to go to ICON, an email popped up from our school district superintendent. He was writing to let parents know that a fifth grade teacher had been arrested on five counts of second degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of assault with intent to commit second-degree criminal sexual conduct.
This was my son’s teacher a few years ago.
My wife spoke with my son while I was gone. He says Mr. Daley never did anything like that to him, which was a relief. He also talked about how disappointed he was in his teacher.
You and me both, kiddo.
My son is in eighth grade this year. If you’d asked me who his best teacher was in the decade he’s been going to school? I would have said Mr. Daley. He was patient, supportive, encouraging, and seemed to genuinely care about his students.
And now, every good thing he did is tainted by the question, Did he really care about his students? Or was it all some sort of grooming behavior, laying the groundwork to see what he could get away with, and with whom?
I trust and believe my son when he says nothing happened. I know fifth grade was a good year for him in many ways, and a relief after a rough time in fourth grade. Mr. Daley was a big part of that. But I also know at least four boys have come forward with these accusations — accusations the news reports claim are corroborated — accusations that were enough to justify an arrest and formal charges.
I’ve worked with rape and abuse survivors. I’ve observed groups with convicted abusers. My wife is a licensed therapist, and has way more experience than I do working with both survivors and abusers. Mr. Daley was one of our favorite teachers for either of our children. Neither one of us had the slightest inkling.
And I start thinking about other, more publicized accusations of harassment and assault, and the denials that follow. People coming out to proclaim the accuser must be lying because the accused is a “very fine man,” and they’ve never seen anything to suggest he (or she) would do such a thing.
Well, yeah. Predators don’t have neon forehead tattoos labeling them rapists and harassers and abusers. The soundtrack doesn’t shift to a minor key when they enter a room.
I understand feeling shocked. I understand not wanting to believe. I was so much happier thinking of this guy as just a great teacher instead of an alleged sexual predator.
I understand wanting to bury your head in denial. But every time someone proclaims, “The victim must be lying, because the accused is such a good man and he’d never do that,” not only are you hurting the victim — not only are you calling them a liar and adding to the burden and pain of speaking up — you’re also providing cover for predators. You’re saying all they have to do is act like a good person around you, and you’ll actively support them and help them to discredit their victims.
Sometimes it’s people you never would have expected. Sometimes it’s people on your “side.” Sometimes it’s people you really liked.
The next hearing in this case is scheduled for late November. Daley will have his time in court, and is legally innocent until proven guilty. It’s possible he is innocent. But given that false accusations are statistically unlikely, given that there are multiple, corroborated accusations, given that enough evidence exists for multiple charges to have been filed, I find that very unlikely.
No matter how much I might want to believe otherwise.