Exeter teachers angered over lack of protection from false allegations
Eric McGuiney, a physical education teacher at Exeter Township Junior High School addressed the Exeter School Board at a workshop meeting Tuesday night.
McGuiney began his speech by detailing events that occured in May of last year when he was contacted by Exeter police.
According to McGuiney, he was contacted because a student reported that he allowed a rape to occur in his class and under his supervision in the boys locker room.
McGuiney asserted his innocence and he indicated that further interrogation by a detective caused the student to admit the incident never happened.
“It is unacceptable for a student to make such an outrageous allegation and then not be held accountable for breaking the law,” McGuiney said. “Both teachers and administrators need protective policy written to support all employees from false allegations made by students.”
In November, McGuiney said he was again a target of false claims. He had been made aware of a post on a prank news website which made stories appear like real news articles.
The faux news article written posed the headline of “Eric McGuiney facing jail time after entering the girls locker room.” The article reportedly depicted him being shot by a male student.
A second story was published under the title, “Eric McGuiney shot and killed,” he said.
McGuiney said he reported the incidents to his principal and on November 5 he contacted the Exeter Township Police Department.
Despite the reports, he wasn’t approached by the district superintendent to discuss the matter until November 20, according to McGuiney.
“Serious threats require immediate action and attention by school officials yet in this situation that’s not how this was handled,” McGuiney said.
In December, McGuiney said he was given the name and contact information for the owner of the website by Exeter police. The articles were later removed after he threatened civil action.
He also questioned why communication was not sent to parents to address the false allegations like the district has done with other incidents; taking issue with a notice to parents that was sent last week regarding a bullet falling out of a students pocket.
“All teachers have been trained on the Safe2Say website portal where staff members are encouraged to report suspicious or dangerous information. If you see something or hear something, you are to say something,” McGuiney said. “That is exactly what I did and nothing was done.”
“We deserve some protection. We deserve to be respected,” Michelle Klusewitz, Exeter Township Education Association president, said.
Christine Wheelen, director of human resources for the district, indicated that she contacted the district’s technology department and superintendent Dr. Robert Phillips.
Wheelen said it could not be proven that the posts were made on school property. She later had a conversation with the district’s solicitor who indicated it would be difficult to address because of first amendment rights.
“I feel very bad for Eric and I wish there was more we could do,” Wheelen said. “Unfortunately, according to our solicitor, we don’t really know if it was even a student here that did it.”
Klusewitz challenged the solicitor’s response in regards to freedom of speech; likening the posts to someone yelling “fire” in a movie theater.
Multiple board members apologized to McGuiney and expressed their concern on how the situation was handled. The board will also look into revising policies to address similar issues in the future.
The teacher’s union filed a grievance on his behalf due to the district’s handling of the situation.