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Lie's toll

Lie's toll: Public is right to seek review in case of wrongly accused teacher

Every teacher's nightmare has been Craig Fry's living hell this past month.

The Leslie special education teacher was charged in January with sexually assaulting a student; charges that could have sent him to prison for life if he were convicted.

But, as this community now knows, the charges were dropped last week because the student lied. Fry is innocent.

Innocent ... but the personal and professional toll on this man's life is incalculable.

If there is any justice for Fry, it's unlikely to occur in the courtroom. In the court of public opinion, however, there is a cry for justice of a sort - for accountability.

The community is right to ask Ingham County's prosecutor and sheriff for a full explanation about the way they investigated allegations against Fry. If they haven't already, Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III and Sheriff Gene Wriggelsworth should launch an internal review of how their departments conduct sexual assault allegations against teachers.

Dunnings and Wriggelsworth should find out whether, prior to charges being filed, investigators were diligent and thorough. From this vantage point, they were not.

Granted, Dunnings took the unusual step of holding a press conference to announce charges against Fry were dropped. And he rightly stated the obvious, that the true victim in this case was Fry himself.

Such after-the-fact acknowledgements do not absolve Ingham's law enforcement system, however.

And what of the 16-year-old girl who wrongly accused Fry?

As a juvenile, this special education student won't be charged with an adult crime. She could be charged in family court, where she could face detention, $150 in fines, community service, wear an electronic tether and be ordered to write a letter of apology.

That's a pretty wimpy punishment for ruining a teacher's reputation - and possibly sending him to jail for life.

The state should review the punishment for making false claims of this type, including those made by juveniles. Because they work with children, teachers are especially vulnerable to trumped-up or patently false charges made by students. The law should have the latitude to punish students accordingly if they make such reputation-wrecking allegations.

The one good thing to come of these sad events is that the Leslie community seems committed to welcoming Fry back as the friendly, popular teacher he is known to be.

"He should get his life back," one Leslie resident said. Indeed. The question is, can he?

— Editorial

Lie's toll: Public is right to seek review in case of wrongly accused teacher

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http://www.lsj.com/opinions/editorials/040218eds1_%28teacher%29.html

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