On Wednesday, I went to the funeral of one of my friends from school. This is the story of his death. This is from memory, but I believe that it is accurate:
During half term, on Wednesday 20th February, my friend, Adrian Wolfson, a primary school teacher, went swimming. In the showers afterwards, one or more children alleged that he was committing a sexual act in public. All he was actually doing was washing his privates.
He was arrested, questioned, and held in a police cell for 36 hours, after which he was taken to the magistrates, charged with indecent exposure, and bailed to return on a date in early April. In describing all this at the funeral, his father, a teacher retired from our school, notes that in those 36 hours he was not allowed access to his son, to tell him that he loved him [or give him any kind of support. I assume that this is actually standard practice in the UK].
While he was arrested, Greenwich Council's education services automatically suspended him from teaching.
After he was released, my friend was distraught. He was guilty by accusation. Because he was charged, the press are allowed to print his full name. So they did. They're not allowed to print his address, but they printed so much detail that he was completely identifiable. Notice how his accusers get complete protection of anonymity, but that is not extended to him, despite the concept in the law of "innocent until proven guilty". Another of the ex-teachers from our school noted that the local press took everything to the edge of what they were allowed by law to do - no gap whatsoever. No matter that he strenuously denied the charge and had pleaded not guilty - they didn't print that. As a result of all this he was getting insulted in the street.
Just with the accusation, he was now on the sex offenders register - he could never teach again. And given for relaxation in the summer he helped out with a Liverpool children's charity, that was gone now too. [I actually got two conflicting informed opinions on this. One was that the charge alone puts you on the register for life, on the basis of "you can never be too safe, we must protect the children". The other, from a mutual friend at school, inspired to go into teaching by our late friend, was that the law has swung back a bit - whilst the change stands he would be on the local register ("list 99"), but but he could not get onto the national register unless actually convicted, and similarly the entry on the local register would be deleted]
However, what I do know is that at no point was he told that he could get union support, and it seems that the LEA's "help" extended only as far as suspending him.
His father last saw him alive on the Friday, and reported him missing on the Monday morning. The police broke down the door to his flat, where they found a suicide note and a will. His father notes that he'd also created a "bereavement pack", and in the two days since his release had collated all the details of his bank accounts and other things that would need dealing with.
As ever the master of suspense, he'd left clues as to what he'd done, and it became apparent that he'd packed his prize possessions into a suitcase - photos, mementos, a favourite Dr Who album, etc - and travelled to Cornwall on the Saturday. However, he'd also intentionally covered his tracks. He'd checked into multiple hotels, paid all his bills in advance, and even written thank-you letters to the staff.
On the Tuesday morning, one of the hotels reported him missing to the police - he'd departed in a distressed state, but had left his possessions. His glasses and rucksack (containing prized possessions) were found on the path at the top of the cliff. His body was found at the base the next day. The pathology report dryly notes that he "died of multiple injuries".
On the Thursday, his father received a call from the solicitors. The evidence was so weak, they said, that the case would be thrown out of court. They didn't know that he was already dead. In the week that had passed, they hadn't contacted the police either.
After the death, Greenwich Council provided bereavement counsellors for the pupils at his school. They did not send a representative to the funeral. They did not want the school to be closed (to allow his fellow teachers to attend the funeral), but to avoid a confrontation, the head teacher wrote a letter to all the parents asking them to collect their children early, and this is what happened. The funeral reception was put on by the school, in the school hall.
He was a good teacher - in addition to the human tragedy, parents of his former pupils are upset that their younger children will now not be able to be in his class. There is some irony that children - the very people he gave his life to helping, paid him back in this way.
But, we must protect the children. At all costs.
This is that cost.
The original, and comments, are on my use.perl journal