Over the past 5-10 years, it has become increasingly common over time for staff to be terminated or non-renewed due to student or parent complaints. These complaints include:
- Complaints of unfair grading
- Complaints about generally disliking a teacher
- Complaints about teacher misconduct, including physical and sexual misconduct
How far these complaints get seems to depend on two key factors:
- How believable the accusation seems
- How much wasta the accusing family has
Sometimes, teachers are nonrenewed due to student or parent complaints, being asked not to return the next school year. Doing so satisfies the family. In some cases, later in the year after the fuss dies down, some teachers have been offered their job back (particularly if the position was difficult to fill).
The school seems to engage in a total lack of transparency while dealing with these issues, and it presents a problem, both in the case of teachers who are guilty of misconduct and, obviously, for teachers who are innocent.
Let’s get the easy case out of the way – innocent teachers lose a lot when they are fired or nonrenewed because of complaints from a family. A short tenure looks bad on your resume and vague responses about why you left your last school are fairly obvious to seasoned school directors who are very cautious when hiring.
In the case of teachers who are accused of physical or sexual misconduct, innocent teachers stand a lot to lose. Because the school has no standard procedure for investigating and adjudicating such claims, they may or may not contact future employers, recruiting agencies or licensing bodies. If Mrs. Ness or Mr. Murphy feel the accusations are credible, they may very well end the career of an innocent teacher should they choose to make these calls.
Let us imagine a hypothetical situation – a teacher at a school is guilty of physical or sexual misconduct with a student. The school ushers the teacher out of the country in less than 24 hours, paying them out for the remainder of their contract. Now, as in the previous scenario, Mrs. Ness and Mr. Murphy may or may not make phone calls to the appropriate people.
Ask yourself which situation is more horrifying: A teacher is guilty of sexually assaulting a child and is allowed to go on doing so, or an innocent teacher’s career is ended because of false accusations. ASK’s unclear procedures allow for both of these situations to occur.
ASK needs to write a plan that ensures a confidential investigation into such accusations can take place. Wasta should not ruin job or career of any teacher. But even if ASK writes the best plan possible, it may not be enough. And that is not because of ASK, but because of the Kuwaiti legal system.
If the school does not exit a teacher immediately from the country and the family escalates the accusations to the police, the teacher’s passport can be confiscated and they can be detained in Kuwait, indefinitely, without the ability to earn income. Similar laws are enacted in many other Gulf countries, as well.
As ASK continues to engage in the accreditation policy, it will be imperative for the school to write more concrete and transparent procedures for child protection. These policies also need to serve the purpose of faculty protection, as well. Teachers, particularly those of you who are on committees, please advocate for yourselves and your colleagues by encouraging the school to be proactive in making these changes.