Wrath of a woman scorned? You betcha!
It took Tonya Craft less than two weeks to sue her accusers – all of them – after she was acquitted on all counts of sexual molestation of children in her kindergarten class. Read about it here (The Chattanoogan, 5/24/10). I wrote about the acquittal here.
Up until May 19, 2008, Tonya Craft had been a kindergarten teacher for years and with a spotless record. Teaching youngsters was her career, her life, and from all accounts, she was good at it. Not any more.
That’s because on May 19, 2008, the accusations started. Weirdly enough, the original accusations weren’t of Craft, but of her pre-school age daughter. One little girl was reported to have touched – and been touched by – Craft’s daughter. Specifically, they were touching each other’s genitals, the way children do sometimes. Later, another child in Craft’s class wrote “sex and kissing” on the sidewalk in chalk.
If none of that sounds like the end of civilization as we know it, you’re just not a parent at Craft’s school. Parents started questioning their children in the leading, suggestive, won’t-take-no-for-an-answer way of Grand Inquisitors since time immemorial. Determined to get incriminating information, they succeeded in cajoling the kids into saying Craft had touched them inappropriately.
Enter a multitude of sheriff’s deputies and child advocates who, when the children said, “My mommy told me to say this” ignored them completely. In short, what the parents, police and child advocates allegedly did was what was done in the pre-school sex abuse hysteria of the 1980s; they kept questioning the children until the kids knuckled under and gave them the answers they wanted. They then took those patently false answers and ruined someone’s life with them.
What was unconscionable in the 80s is doubly so now. That’s because protocols for questioning small children in cases of alleged sexual abuse have been developed. According to Craft’s lawsuit and according to expert testimony at her criminal trial, those protocols were ignored by everyone in their headlong rush to destroy Tonya Craft.
It was those protocols that helped to get Tonya Craft acquitted; experts testified that those protocols had been abandoned, which doubtless had an effect on the jury. And with that nightmare behind her, she’s embarked on a lawsuit in federal court to make her accusers pay. She’s sued parents, she’s sued school officials, sheriff’s department officials, two child advocacy agencies and numerous individual therapists and hangers on. She’s seeking $25 million in damages. She’s also demanding a court order requiring the county to establish appropriate protocols for handling future allegations.
This is one to watch. I’ve written before about people like William Dunn in Florida whose civil suit against that state’s child protective agency is coming to trial this October. They kept his child from him for over a year under truly outrageous circumstances.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: civil suits for damages are made for situations like these. False accusers need to know that they don’t act with impunity, even if they do work for the state. They need to understand that allegations like those against Tonya Craft can destroy a person’s life, and therefore must be made only after responsible investigation that produces probable cause.
Protecting children is a fine and necessary thing, but it doesn’t excuse a witch hunt. It shouldn’t come with a price tag that reads “Our Constitutional Rights.”
Thanks to Terry for the heads-up.