October 16, 2012 by williamsjustliving
My teaching career yielded a lot of fruitful legal experiences.
In the midst of that period a few years ago when CRCT cheating scandals were the rage, I received an e-mail message in my work inbox. I was “summoned” to a location to be questioned in connection with CRCT results from my previous year’s class. I was stunned. Shocked. Curious. And…..angry. I was so angry. I dislike being accused of something that I didn’t do. And, believe me, I wouldn’t have had the time or talent necessary to cheat on the CRCT. But, I was informed by my principal, refusal was not an option. I went. They asked. I talked. They wrote. I left.
Ah! The audacity and hopefulness of my younger days. Looking back from my current position in law school, I see how vulnerable I was after making a statement.
1. I had no representation. No one in that room was on my side except for me. No one in that room was neutral. Thankfully, nothing “bad” happened, but if something had happened: it would have been my word against theirs. There was an obvious suggestion that this would be an “informal” conversation, but the problem of formality is not a problem for the conversation, but a problem of what happens after the conversation. If I could do it over, I would at least ask if I could have someone else in the room.
2. I was unprepared. I knew the subject of the questions they would ask me. Everything would have to relate to the previous year’s administration of the CRCT. I should have taken the time to gather my thoughts and memories of the testing. I was likewise ignorant of the purpose of the questioning. I had no idea what my employer wanted to do with the answers I provided. As an employee on a yearly contract, I assumed that my employer could take no action against me. That wasn’t necessarily true. The wise move would have been to ask some questions about what possible action could be taken against me.
Asking questions would have definitely caused friction between my employer and I. If you are being asked to give a statement about an event at your workplace, consider how being inquisitive could cause problems for you. But, that statement was still sticky. I have no idea how they interpreted my statement, and how my statement may have been used against someone else.
It should be obvious that I think “informal” questioning of teachers is….(for lack of a better term)….malarkey–and a practice that I hope is NEVER brought back. Just in case it is, however, I’m waiting and ready this time around.