Kennebec Valley Chamber

Serving the Kennebec Valley, Maine Region

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Friday Report ~ September 11, 2015

…I didn’t do it! - When I was a child, my mother received a call on the phone from the manager of the local Woolworth’s. The manager told my mother that I had been seen stealing a candy bar from the store earlier that afternoon. When I tried to convince my mother that I had not been to Woolworth’s that day (although I often did) I was apparently not very convincing. I recall being dragged to the car and driven down to Woolworth’s to apologize and pay for the candy bar. When we arrived, the manager had no idea what we were talking about. He had never called.

While the accusation turned out to be a prank call by a classmate, there was a period of time when I was in deep trouble. My mother had completely believed the caller and was so embarrassed that I had shoplifted, she was eager to “make it right.” Today we can see this scenario continue to play out in the workplace. Specifically when it comes to our educators.

Recently, in Waterville, there was apparently a situation that put the integrity of the High school principal into question. I have no idea what transpired however because the news reported that he had been suspended but could not explain why. Regardless of what happened, or the principal’s eventual guilt or innocence, I want to take a minute to commend the Waterville Superintendent and others involved for the way in which they have handled this situation.

Our nation is a nation of laws. We have proudly boasted “innocent until proven guilty” for over 120 years when the Supreme Court ruled on Coffin vs. U.S. in 1894. We have prided ourselves on our legal system, even with its many faults, as one of the fairest in the world. Despite all of this, we continue to crucify individuals in the court of public opinion. Many times, the press is the first to draw blood. In its haste to be the “lead story” or get the “breaking news” credit, they lose sight of the many lives that are affected by publishing unsubstantiated claims or allegations.

Please don’t get me wrong. I appreciate, and have fought to defend, a free press and it’s not always the press. Social media has evolved as a leading communication tool that comes with no filter or fact checker. Accusations can be levied with no retribution leaving the accused in danger of being labeled with a career ending reputation. We are seeing it take place as bullying in schools and in other forms in the workplace.

So take a moment to review with your team how accusations of workplace impropriety are to be handled. The Waterville Superintendent set the bar by removing the professional from the position, but withholding any accusations, therefore leaving their professional reputation intact until the facts could be gathered. Make sure that you afford the same dignity to your valued employees. If our legal system has the evidence to charge an individual with a crime, so be it. Until then however, let’s remember that people have a right to privacy and the right of presumed innocence.

For the record, my mother bought me a candy bar.