Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

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Full Title: Guilty Until Proven Innocent: Teachers and Accusations of Abuse
Authors: Matthew D. Olson & Greg Lawler

Crimes against children are unspeakable. The natural instinct of our society is to protect our children at all cost. In the process, collateral damage has been done to teachers wrongly accused of abuse. Colorado Education Association Attorney Greg Lawler has been fighting for teachers’ rights for fifteen years. Guilty Until Proven Innocent examines thirteen of Lawler’s cases in detail and explores the societal pressures that led to the persecution of innocent teachers. Using real cases that Lawler has litigated, Guilty Until Proven Innocent explains the role of legislators, the media and the public in the growing phenomenon of teachers being falsely accused of abuse against students.


Foreword / ix

Introduction / xiii

  1. Section One – Legislative Cases
  2. Joseph Anderson / 1
  3. Lisa Ridgeway / 15
  4. Joanna Chapel / 29
  5. Janet Young / 39
  6. Aaron Marks / 51
  7. Kurt Apple / 65
  8. Jack Ericksen / 79

      1. The Anderson case demonstrates the need for mandatory discipline for students who are proven to have made false allegations against educators.
        The Ridgeway case highlights the need for accused teachers to have better access to School District’s investigative records and the need to scrutinize the motives of administrators dealing with allegations of abuse.
        The Chapel case deals with the impetus behind the creation of legislation to protect teachers who are accused of abuse for actions resulting from the responsible execution of their daily duties.
        The Young case underscores the need for teachers to fight all unjust disciplinary actions before they become part of their personnel record.
        The Marks case illustrates the need for severe mandatory repercussions for educators who make false allegations of abuse against other educators.
        The Apple case was one of the first cases to test the Chapel legislation.
        The Ericksen case examines the role that the "report anything that is uncomfortable" standard plays in the chilling of academic freedoms.


    Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, a physics theory, is taken out of its original context to explain how the media affects the perception and outcome of teacher abuse cases. The Carr case illustrates the media’s ability to drive a case to an unnatural conclusion. It also illustrates the need for a purified sex offender registry. / 123
    The Wilder case examines the role of the media in the classroom and the clash between First Amendment Rights and School District policy. The media scrutinized the case against Colin, but failed to adequately cover Colin’s acquittal. Because of negative media publicity, Colin found returning to the classroom difficult, despite a full exoneration. An attempt by Salmon to keep a student from failing a grade was blown out of proportion by the media, resulting in the School District bringing termination charges against Salmon. A practical joke went awry and resulted in Ford’s termination. The media supported Ford because of parental pressure. The case was also impacted by a personal friction between Ford and an administrator. The Rowland case was not covered by the media; however, Rowland’s discipline of a student was unsupported by the School District and the student’s violent behavior escalated to murder. The murder case was covered extensively by the media and the press questioned whether the student’s violence would have escalated if the School District had taken stronger disciplinary actions. Methods teachers can take to protect themselves from false allegations are offered and legislation that is necessary to protect teachers from false allegations of abuse are introduced and examined.
  9. Section Two – Media Cases
    1. The Uncertainty Principle / 95
    2. Darren Carr / 107
    3. Al Wilder
    4. Robert Colin / 143
    5. Lori Salmon / 155
    6. Gus Ford / 165
    7. Scott Rowland / 177
    8. Protecting Teachers / 187



"Guilty Until Proven Innocent is a must read for every teacher or anyone thinking about entering the teaching profession."

Phil Moeckli, Executive Director of the Colorado Education Association.

About the Author: Matthew D. Olson has worked as a reporter since he was 16 years old. His stories have run in the Greeley Tribune, Gillette News-Record and Denver Post. He and his wife currently reside in Aurora, Colorado.


Greg Lawler

was instrumental in the creation of the Criminal Defense Program of the Legal Services Department of the CEA in 1986. Currently, the CEA is one of only three state teachers’ unions with such a program. Lawler has defended over two thousand teachers accused of abuse. To date, he has never lost a case of a school employee accused of child abuse at trial. He currently resides in Denver, Colorado.
Details: 2003 [ISBN: 1-58107-062-4; 232 pages soft cover; 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 inch]