Monday, October 7, 2013
LA School District Increase Numbers of Teachers Fired Since Miramonte Sex Scandal
accepted the resignations of 110 more since February 2012, when the Miramonte sex-abuse scandal triggered a crackdown on misconduct, according to district officials.
In providing updated tallies last week, officials were unable to say how many of the 237 employees had quit or been terminated because of inappropriate behavior involving students.
However, they did say that "most" of the 413 educators pulled from the classroom over the past 20 months had been accused of some sort of misconduct. That total includes two teachers who are under investigation as a result of a review of 40 years' worth of personnel files that was also launched after the Miramonte scandal.
A total of 68 teachers -- including two others targeted in LAUSD's file review project -- were cleared of wrongdoing and reinstated, officials said.
According to the most recent figures, 209 educators are being "housed" in administrative offices -- known in some circles as "teacher jail." They can languish there for months, collecting their pay, while the district investigates the allegations and decides whether to return them to the classroom or recommend dismissal. (District officials provided the individual figures but acknowledged that they don't add up precisely to the total of 413 because of the fluid situation.)
Under California law, a school board's vote to dismiss a teacher takes effect 30 days later unless the educator appeals to the state Office of Administrative Hearings, a process that can months and cost upwards of $200,000 in legal fees to conclude.
Because the board's dismissal vote also terminates the teacher's salary, many educators opt to accept an offer of back pay to drop their appeal. That's what happened with Miramonte teacher Mark Berndt, who received $40,000 after the board voted to terminate him.
Because of the public outcry over that deal, the district is no longer settling cases involving suspected sexual abuse, officials said. However, teachers accused of other types of misconduct can still negotiate a financial payout.
Over the past 20 months, the OAH has issued rulings involving 15 teachers, finding in favor of the district in eight of those cases. The district is appealing two of the cases it lost -- both involving teachers accused of helping students cheat on tests.
And the five teachers who won their appeals have been placed back on the LAUSD payroll, but will not be returned to their former assignments, General Counsel David Holmquist said.
"We felt it appropriate to pull them from the classroom and remove them from being around students before. Just because the three-member (OAH) panel doesn't agree with that doesn't change our responsibility to the students.
"So we are continuing to house them or find other work for them that does not involve students. But they're not going to be back in the classroom." ___