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Researching allegations of sexual misconduct in schools: The need for a narrative approach

Sikes, Pat and Piper, Heather (2011) Researching allegations of sexual misconduct in schools: The need for a narrative approach. Sexuality research and social policy, 8 (4). 294-303.. ISSN 1553-6610

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The Anglophone world is gripped by a moral panic focused on child abuse in general and fear of the paedophile in particular. Evidence suggests an alarming rise in the number of false allegations of sexual abuse being made against teachers and demonstrates that the fallout from being falsely accused is far-reaching and sometimes tragic. In the UK, master narratives which influence and shape child protection policies and procedures privilege the stories told by accusers and, in effect, silence the accused who are considered guilty until shown to be innocent (which is not in any way a straightforward matter). This paper reports research which focused on the narratives of male school teachers and of members of their families, their friends and colleagues, who have been accused of sexual misconduct with female students which they say they did not commit and of which they have eventually been cleared or the case has been dismissed (Sikes and Piper, 2010). The narratives of our informants evoked and made real the lived consequences of policies and showed the damage that could be done to individuals in a way that no statistics are ever likely to be able to do (see Richardson, 2000; Smith, Auto/Biography, 10(1), 131–121, 2002). We reflect on how our findings have influenced policy and their implications for initial and in-service teacher education.

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