The Washington Post tells the story of a high school teacher who was accused of sexually assaulting a student. She was arrested and fired. The charges were dismissed for lack of evidence. The teacher sued the county and won a judgment of $5 million for the damage to her life and career.

I am reminded of an incident that happened in the D.C. public schools in 1991 when I was living in Washington and working for the George H.W. Bush administration. A story appeared in the Washington Post that a junior high school teacher was accused by eight students of sexual misconduct. With so many accusations, it appeared at first reading that the teacher was a dangerous child abuser.

However, the D.C. police interviewed each student separately, and eventually one of them confessed that the group had concocted the story to hurt the teacher because he assigned to much homework. They wanted to punish him. He was cleared but his reputation was destroyed.

Here are the details of this recent case:

The first clue that Kimberly Winters, a high school English teacher, had that a former student had accused her of sexually abusing him was when Loudoun County sheriff’s deputies in full riot gear burst into her bedroom one morning with their rifles drawn.

“It was very terrifying,” Winters said. “I still have nightmares. Big guns.”

Winters said the deputies yanked her out of bed, handcuffed her, and made her stand in the front yard of her Sterling, Va., home in her pajamas while they patted her down, in full view of the neighborhood.

When she went to the Loudoun jail, Winters said, she was strip-searched, which her lawyer said violated the sheriff’s policies because she wasn’t booked into the jail. But her mug shot was taken and distributed to the news media along with a press release saying she was charged with sexually abusing one of her students when he was 17. Soon, she was fired from her job at Park View High School, after teaching in Loudoun for eight years.

When Loudoun prosecutors looked at the case brought by Detective Peter Roque, they promptly dismissed all charges. Winters sued Roque and Loudoun Sheriff Mike Chapman (R). And after a five-day trial earlier this month, a Loudoun jury took less than two hours to find the two law enforcement officials liable for Winters’s economic and punitive damages. They awarded her $5 million.

It appeared Roque had not seriously investigated any of the student’s claims, said Winters’s lawyer, Thomas K. Plofchan. On a sworn search warrant application in November 2018, Roque had written, “Witnesses’ statements are corroborated by phone records,” but there were no records, Plofchan said the evidence showed.

Winters said she could not get a job for two years, even as a stock clerk in a grocery, with her master’s degree in teaching. She lost all of her friends, many from her years in Loudoun schools. And she developed intense anxiety, including an involuntary tremor. “It became so humiliating, I literally couldn’t go out of my house,” Winters said. “This has been going on for four years. The repeated trauma of having to relive this created this tremor. My entire body shakes.

There is more, if you can open the story. Basically, the mother and son had no evidence. No text messages, phone messages, photographs, notes.

The moral of the story is that accusations of this nature should not be made without corroborating evidence. If two people have a sustained relationship, there should be evidence. Otherwise every teacher lives in fear of false accusations.

Ms. Winters gave up teaching. She can’t go back.