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girlofscience's avatar

Could I have pressed charges against my gym teacher in high school?

Asked by girlofscience (7434 points ) February 27th, 2009

The statute of limitations is up on this one, I don’t care now, and I didn’t care when it happened. I’m simply curious if I could have pressed charges against my high school gym teacher for an incident that occurred when I was 15.

BACKGROUND:
I went to an all-girls private Catholic high school, so of course my gym class was all female. The gym teacher was female as well.

THE STORY:
One day, after I had changed out of my uniform and into my gym shorts, the teacher yelled at me for rolling them up and making them too short. At the time, I was standing in front of the group of girls in my class with my back to them.

The female gym teacher walked over to me in anger at the length of my shorts and yanked them down. I believe she was only attempting to pull them down a few inches so that they would be an appropriate length, but instead, she pulled them all the way down to my ankles.

I was wearing a thong, and all of the girls in my gym class got a nice view of my butt.

I didn’t care at all; I just laughed. But the gym teacher was unbelievably embarrassed. She was like, “Oh, oh, god. Oh, I am so sorry. Oh my god, I am so sorry,” and she turned bright red and walked into her office.

CONSEQUENCES?
If I had been offended or upset, what could I have done? What possible consequences could she have faced for this behavior? Could she have been fired? Arrested? Sued? What is the worst that could have occurred if I had wished to make her pay for this incident? Would I have had to go to court for it?

I’m just randomly curious.

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42 Answers

Mamradpivo's avatar

If you don’t think there was any harmful intent and she was embarassed, it was best to let it drop. Any legal action would have ben tremendously embarrassing for you both and would probably only have hurt her career.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

Although it wasn’t deliberate, she probably could have been sued, technically, for sexual harassment. Then there’s public embarrassment, which was a direct result of her actions.

Whether or not she could have been fired would probably have been strictly up to your school. I think at the most, they may have suspended her while they investigated they accident.

basp's avatar

If this happened in the last ten years or so, you probably could have sued, screwed up her career and life, written a book, done the talk show circut and had a movie made.
If this happened forty years ago (when I was in high school) you would have been told to get over it already, you shouldn’t have had your shorts rolled up in the first place.

scamp's avatar

I doubt if you would have been able to get any money out of it, but you might have been able to bring some type of criminal charge against her and ruined her career.

The reason why I don’t think you could have sued her is for what? Damages? What damage was done? You said you laughed about it, so it probably would have been difficult to prove any kind of duress or damage done to you.

I’m curious. What brought this to mind now after so long?

girlofscience's avatar

@scamp: This post on fmylife.

Today, I was sitting in class and I fell asleep during the lesson. I was wearing sweatpants and had an erection. My teacher came up to me and grabbed my penis. She thought it was my phone. FML

mangeons's avatar

You probably could, but you wouldn’t win, and it would be a large waste of money just in an attempt to hurt her for an accident. What’s the point in that, especially if you didn’t even care?

And lol@that post on fmylife. :)

missingbite's avatar

It really depends on how long ago this was. Fifteen years ago you would have been laughed out of court. Last year it would have made MSNBC and the Civil Liberties Office in about 30 seconds flat.

girlofscience's avatar

@missingbite: This was in 2001.

mangeons's avatar

People just love to find ways to get people in trouble.

missingbite's avatar

That’s right about the time this sort of thing was making a big splash. Remember Mary Kay Letourneau. That was 1996. Your teacher probably could have gotten into a lot of trouble for misconduct. I for one am glad you recognized it as a mistake and didn’t get to upset. She was obviously sorry and apologized so I’m glad it ended there.

rockstar4411's avatar

what this sounds like to me is that you gym teacher is either A.) gay b.) jealous of you or C.)has problems and likes to judge people.
But i totally understand about wanting to sue your gym teacher because every time it is time to go change in our P.E. uniforms she always watch these girls change and its kinda weird and when we tell her to leave she goes all King-Kong on us like we did something horrible. But i think all gym teachers are just crazy or maybe something else who knows.

LouisianaGirl's avatar

@rockstar4411 I know right she just stands there and watches us and when we ask her to please leave shes all like blah blah blah blah blah. But it was an accident and she apologized to you. But whatever you want to do.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

the lawsuit-happy mindset of today’s world makes me want to puke!

El_Cadejo's avatar

@girlofscience oh god i cant stop laughing about the dick grabbing teacher

eponymoushipster's avatar

are there any photos of this incident?

LouisianaGirl's avatar

@eponymoushipster oohhhh hahaha :P
Please dont share them!!!

srtlhill's avatar

Maybe she went in her office to rub one off because she was turned on. Now you have your lawsuit. Nice thong buttcheeks.

augustlan's avatar

I’m sure you could have sued her for emotional distress or something (if you hadn’t laughed) but I’m awfully glad you didn’t.

Mr_M's avatar

You would have had to show some sort of lasting distress, ex., you never went back to the school, you had to go to therapy, etc.

A thong in gym? Isn’t that impractical? I’m surprised the school didn’t have a policy about that.

laureth's avatar

Not that it matters now, but while everyone else is thinking “sexual harrassment” (which I don’t think it is – it was an accident) or “distress” (which is over with, apparently), I’m thinking “assault.”

girlofscience's avatar

@Mr_M: No, it’s not impratical. I have always only ever wore thongs. Any other kind of underwear is not comfortable for me because bikini underwear just gives me wedgies. And I wear tight pants, so you can see the underwear line if you don’t wear thongs. And that does not look classy.

ubersiren's avatar

Seems like you were both embarrassed and nobody was at fault for what happened. Maybe she shouldn’t have put her hands on you, but if your pants hadn’t come down, that wouldn’t even be an issue.

PrancingUrchin's avatar

@girlofscience, I read that fmylifepost today on the site and I laughed again when I read it here. It was a great one.

LostInParadise's avatar

I must be missing something. Maybe they do things differently in Catholic girl’s gym classes but when I went to gym class, we all dressed and undressed in the same room and shared a common shower room. While such an incident would be embarassing, nobody was going to see anything that had not been exposed before.

eponymoushipster's avatar

@LostInParadise funny, that’s exactly how i imagine the showers in catholic girls’ schools…hrm.

SeventhSense's avatar

@girlofscience
A teacher could easily be dismissed and never teach again for this behavior in a public school in NY if they didn’t have tenure. Catholic schools have their own criteria.
@LostInParadise
We’ve really come far as a society haven’t we? Nowadays shame, shameless and shameful are the only ways we can think about nudity.

ShauneP82's avatar

Personally I think the law is a little to harsh on educators. A lot of people with good intentions get shafted in this industry everyday. I tip my hat to anybody that puts up with the crap the law makes them do. I don’t think pressing charges was in order or should ever be. It would not kill somebody to be embarrassed nor is it life changing. If it were the case I have a nice laundry list of people who would be recieving a call from my attorney post haste. It would teach some humility to be embarrassed. Thats something alot of people seem to think they can live without.

Horus515's avatar

While I may not have an actual answer to this question that satisfies any legal requirements I must encourage you to share anymore stories you might have of your time at this all-girls catholic school. I think it may be uh, important to the uh, discourse and thus pertinent um…

dalepetrie's avatar

Well, you say it was when you were 15, so, how old are you now (if it’s not impolite to ask)? For some reason I was under the impression you were in your early 20s, so you’re talking about less than a decade ago…if that’s the case, maybe, maybe not, but probably not…most kids who went to school in the ‘90s (much less the 2000s) have been pretty well protected from anything and everything to the point where teachers risk getting sued if they look at a kid funny. But the reason I ask is because that wasn’t the case when I was in school For example, I was 15 in 1986, and boy, I think about some of the shit teachers were able to pull back then. For example, my 7th grade teacher had a huge wooden oar with 3 huge 1” holes drilled in the middle to “cut down on wind” resistance.

All that pales in comparison to what was going on with my school’s 4th grade teachers those of you who take the time to read this, I was in the male teacher’s 4th grade class, and in the female teacher’s 4th grade reading class. This same male teacher one time came to my defense in an odd sort of way…I had a bully shove me against a wall outside the school in 4th grade and this teacher heard about it and whipped the other kid’s ass. But then later in the year, I was out sick one day and the class watched Charlotte’s Web the day I was out. I came back to school the next day and he wanted my math homework, which he’d assigned the day I wasn’t there. I told him I didn’t know that was due, but he started calling me lazy, then he started calling me Wilbur (I didn’t get the pig reference until he also started calling me little piggy). Then he said he had to teach me not to be so lazy, he took me in the store room (the same one apparently mentioned in this court filing), and I can’t recall if he pulled my pants down or not, but he spanked me open handed.

If I’d been a kid nowadays, we could have sued that guy back to the stone age before he’d ever gotten the chance to do the other crap he did. My understanding however is that when he did get out of teaching, he became a bus driver in another school district where he worked until he retired about 2 years ago.

And of course, this was a PUBLIC school…hell, a private school, particularly a Catholic one, well, they have ways of making these problems go away, if you know what I mean.

augustlan's avatar

@dalepetrie Your link is broken. :(

augustlan's avatar

Oh. My. Goodness. What a long (and interesting) read!

dalepetrie's avatar

Yeah, I was shocked to find the court papers after all these years…I knew the basic story, but it was just so amazing for me to read, because these are the people who were charged with guiding me through school. I never liked the guy, and it seems to me that our Principal (who I thought was a real jerk), and the Superintendent (who I liked but who seemed pretty weak even to me as a 10 year old), with all the crap that I and others in my class brought to their attention about this guy, they really just kind of swept it under the carpet. I really hated grade school, and I never realized until I was an adult that it was them and not me.

augustlan's avatar

It’s amazing to think they were going through all that while trying to teach 4th grade! It’s a wonder you learned anything at all during that time. ;)

dalepetrie's avatar

Well, I learned a lot, just not the things I was supposed to learn. I was in that guy’s class with that woman’s daughter as my classsmate, and two of the other people mentioned also had kids my age in my class. Most of what happened though, happened after I had moved on to the 5th grade. Add to the picture, the guy looked like a thin Gene Shallit. My school experience was just unreal. My parents moved around a lot before I started 1st grade, it was my 7th home when I moved to this school district (my dad was first in the military then in retail management), then in the summer between kindergarten and 1st grade, my parents moved to the house they still live in to this day. They didn’t want to be “in town”, despite the fact that the “town” in question had all of 5,000 residents and not one single chain store (well, there was a DQ, so one single chain store). It was a small, close knit mining community (if you saw the movie North Country you probably got a feel for the mentality up there, and in the opening scene you can see a house situated on the line between “in town” and the township where we lived). My parents bought a home on 8 acres of mostly undeveloped land 4 miles out of town, which they thought would be good because 2 of the other 3 houses on the block had boys in my class. However, they were both grease-monkey types and I was an egghead, so they were never that close to me, and the fact that I wasn’t really anyone’s neighbor, didn’t have any connections via my family to other families in the town, and wasn’t a member of one of the main ethnicities up there, so I more than just “kind of” an outsider.

As it turned out, I was also the last person on the bus, and all the seats were taken by the time I got on, that or no one would move in and let me sit by them, so I’d stand on the bus. And having a bus that basically brought kids from K-12 to school, we had high school seniors who had no qualms about picking on first graders, especially ones that stood out a bit, for example someone who was standing on the bus every day. One day when getting off the bus, I was hit in the temple by a class ring thrown from the back of the bus.

To make matters worse, my first day of first grade, I went in to class, and didn’t know where to go. Fortunately, the older sister of one of my classmates (one of the two who lived on the same road as I did), brought me in and showed me how to find my name on the list outside the classrooms. She said we should start with her 1st grade teacher, but my name wasn’t on that list. Then we went to another teacher, my name was no on her list. Then we went to the last 1st grade teacher, and my name was not on her list. So, we went into the classroom of the teacher this girl had for 1st grade, explained the situation to her, and she said she didn’t want another student, so we did the same thing with the other two teachers, same answer, so we went to the principal (the guy in the court filing). He decided I should go into the class with the 1st teacher we’d checked with (the first one who had rejected me).

Well, from that day, she took a dislike to me as if I had something to do with it. And she would find a reason every single day to reprimand/punish me…her chosen method of punishment was to send me to the coat room. As you walked into the classroom, there was a rack of hangers to hang one’s coats on and a bench…it was the length of the classroom, but only about 2 feet deep, and if you misbehaved, you would get sent there. Problem was, I was a real straight arrow, I never did anything to provoke her, but because I was already a target for some of the kids in class which was very cliquish and word spread quickly that I was the punching bag. So, it didn’t matter that I wasn’t doing anything, once the kids caught wind of the teacher punishing me for anything that went wrong, they found ways to get me in trouble. I remember one time it really irked me, someone threw a paper airplane at me, it hit me, bounced off my head and hit he floor. She sent me to the closet for throwing paper airplanes, I didn’t even know how to make paper airplanes. Funny thing was, I couldn’t even tie my shoes in 1st grade, much less make an airplane, and she knew that, it was one of the things that really pissed her off when early in the school year I asked her to help me with an untied shoelace.

Unfortunately, people didn’t listen to kids in those days, my dad’s answer to being picked on was to learn to fight and kick some ass, and my mom’s answer was to go to the guidance counselor (the Superintendent from the legal filing), who pretty much told me it would get better as I got older and did nothing about it. So then when the other kids would pick on me, start to push me around, which really started to happen a lot in 4th grade, I’d get in trouble. Here’s how they did things…there was a little alcove where there was nothing but radiators and locked doors that separated us from the school…in the mornings before the first bell and after lunch/recess, but before the 5th quarter first bell, we would essentially be expected to stand in that little hallway, boys on one side, girls on the other. And it was the janitors who paced back and front of these doors looking for signs of trouble, and ultimately unlocking the doors. So, if someone decided to push me or hit me and one of the janitors saw it, he’d grab us both and drag us down to the principal’s office, and we’d BOTH get in trouble for fighting, even though all I was doing was taking a beating.

The Principal didn’t believe me, or my overbearing mother who always had the worst ideas of how to help me, like the time she tried to take care of the issue of me standing on the bus by having the police pull the bus over…I of course didn’t know she was the reason it happened, but it was a small town and everyone else did know it was my mommy….that was a few dozen more ass whippings for which I ultimately caught hell.

By the time I hit 4th grade, having one of my teachers rape and belittle the other one was de rigeur.

augustlan's avatar

I’m so sorry you had such a terrible experience! People can be such shits.

dalepetrie's avatar

The adversity made me who I am for better or for worse in retrospect I take a zen view of it…it is what it is, it was what it was. And I’m doing what I can to make sure my son’s school experience is much better…so far, so good.

Noel_S_Leitmotiv's avatar

What did he press against you?

CaptainHarley's avatar

You sound too level-headed to play the victim role. : )

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

I don’t think you would have gotten anywhere criminally unless the DA was running for a higher office and it was an election year. The way you describe it, there was no grooming, no forethought, she didn’t grope and naughty bits intentionally. Any DA worth his/her salt would have passed. The bar was far lower than some drunk young woman having a train put on her by a bunch of ball players, and the DA didn’t see a slam dunk to take that to trial. Unless half the class was willing to perjure themselves to say she did it on purpose or touched more than she did, there is no criminal case there.

Even civilly it is rather weak unless you have some overly sympathetic jury that just want to pay you when there was no real intent done. You were in your gym class, hard to not have any other girl see you in your underwear of naked in the shower. It was not like it was in math class in front of boys. On most cases, I think the money, if any, would be mostly paltry; most likely settle out of court with no admission of guilt, and sealed.

Ron_C's avatar

I would stay as far away from lawyers as possible and why would you wear a thong to gym class? I would thing that getting sweaty with a string in you cheeks would be really uncomfortable. I think the teacher taught you a valuable lesson and to value yourself more.

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