Today news reports have emerged as to the alleged impaired driving activity of a school bus driver in the state of Connecticut. In such instances these allegations spread like wildfire through various news outlets eager to promote the senational news aspects of such a story.
What parent or family member is not interested in the well being of children who are in effect commanded to ride the school bus each day. It offends the sensibilities of all caring and decent indviduals to consider that any individual entrusted to care for the the safety of minor children is capable of any act contributing to the endangerment of a child.
It is for those reasons that I have been privy to many instances where criminal accusations initially suggested against those in safety rendering positions by children of all ages have been proven baseless.
Due to our overwheming and legitimate need to look out for the protection of children, as human beings our first inclination is often to blame first when we first hear such allegations from our children and make apologies later. Isolated acts of potential driving infractions such as crossing a center line or hitting a curb when reported by a child to a parent can quite justifiably give rise to concern over the capabilities of a given bus driver in question.
Driving a schoolbus is not always an easy endeavor. Within many suburban developments or busy urban thoroughfares hitting a curb or crossing a center line is not always an isolated event whether we choose to believe such realities or not.
While it is the right of all parents to question the skill of a given bus driver and have action taken to replace the driver if poor driving performance is substantiated, hurling initial criminal allegations of drunk driving, etc. against such a driver so as secure the attention of school personnel is highly unethical and potentially subject to legal sanction in its own right.
Although in the present instance breath test results out of Connecticut allegedly substantiate the driver’s consumption of alcohol, many initial impaired driving allegations of this kind lodged against bus drivers have too often proven to be unfounded.
Our laws recognize a special interest in protecting the well being of children in all societal circumstances. Correspondingly, it is essential that difficult though it may be, special interest be taken at safeguarding the legal rights of those targeted by allegations that are capable of destroying a career and one’s upstanding reputation.
Our legal history is replete with countless instances of baseless allegations that have been swept under the rug when considering crimes which in any way revolve around the allegations of children. Too many are quick to rely on the excuse that the protection of children should always take precedence over the legal rights against one who may have initially been accused incorrectly of potential misconduct.
While the protection of children must always be of a paramount concern, it is incumbent upon all school corporations to quickly and expeditiously commence investigations that are capable of ferreting out unsubstantiated allegations before having an opportunity to gain traction.
Working with parents and children, school corporations and any law enforcement agencies involved have an ethical obligation to contain the dissemination of any potentially slanderous suggestions based upon the initial hystrionics of concerned parents.
Should legal aspects of a case warrant criminal prosecution, there is little a defense attorney can due to deflect from the public interest such a story represents.
However, in all too many occurences mere allegations of this nature made without merit have in and of themselves been permitted to cripple the futures of those unjustly accused prior to the conclusion of any school endorsed investigation.
Where isolated acts of driving activity are called into question, our interest in protecting children cannot be permitted to supersede the interest in preserving the reputations and livelihoods of those in highly sensitive positions of trust.
In a noteworthy case, a former governmental official once cleared following a costly trial was not willing to embrace the congratulations of news reporters on the courthouse steps following his legal victory. In the aftermath of his case’s conclusion he asked of all the reporters assembled before him, “where do I go to get my reputation back?”
Let us remember this before quickly presuming legal culpability against one in a position of trust when those allegations are first reported by children we endeavor to protect at all costs.