Deasy wants teachers' contracts changed over misconduct records
-- Howard Blume, LA Times/LA Now | http://lat.ms/yqzOxO
February 29, 2012 | 1:23 pm :: L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy ordered his negotiating team Wednesday to press the teachers union to eliminate a provision of the contract that allows information about alleged but unproven teacher misconduct to be removed after four years.
Deasy said the clause has hampered district efforts to identify potential problem teachers through a top-to-bottom review of district records — both centrally and at schools.
The superintendent's announcement comes the day after The Times revealed the little-known contract provision.
The issue emerged in the wake of the arrest of former Miramonte Elementary teacher Mark Berndt. He has been charged with 23 counts of lewd conduct, with authorities alleging that he spoon-fed his semen to blindfolded students as part of what he called a “tasting game.”
L.A. Unified could find no allegations of past misconduct in Berndt’s file, although former students, parents and investigators confirmed that unrelated allegations had been made in the past.
The automatic purging of records could substantially account for Berndt’s unblemished personnel file, district officials have said.
“In the interests of affording greater protections to our students, I have instructed the [district] negotiating team to enter into discussions immediately with the teachers’ union to change or eliminate this practice,” Deasy said in a statement Wednesday.
The teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles, had no immediate comment. The union and the school system are in negotiations over a new employment contract.
The clause is not unique to the Los Angeles Unified School District, but many school systems do not have such rules, including those in New York, Long Beach and San Diego. Deasy, who took over the top job in L.A. Unified about a year ago, said he is not aware of such a provision in any district that he has previously led.
Photo: LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy wants teachers' contracts changed over misconduct records. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times
LA schools chief opens union talks over misconduct
from The San Francisco Chronicle | http://bit.ly/yTsgu9
Wednesday, February 29, 2012, 14:29 PST Los Angeles, CA (AP) :: The superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District on Tuesday instructed formal negotiations to begin with the teachers union over abolishing a four-year time-limit on teacher disciplinary files.
The move comes in the wake of the scandal last month at Miramonte Elementary School, where a former third grade teacher was charged with 23 counts of lewdness on children. Complaints of sexual misconduct against him were made as long ago as 1994, but investigations did not result in any action.
Superintendent John Deasy said at the time that Mark Berndt's personnel file contained no record of those complaints.
Deasy subsequently ordered a review of all teacher misconduct cases over the past four years to ensure they had all been reported to the state Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
During that review, Deasy said administrators discovered a provision in the teachers' contract stipulating that misconduct allegations that did not lead to discipline would be dropped from a teacher's file after four years.
Deasy said he instructed the district's negotiating team to immediately enter into discussions with the United Teachers Los Angeles to change or abolish the provision, which he said was inserted into the contract 20 years ago at the union's behest.
UTLA is open to discussing the issue, said union President Warren Fletcher, in a statement.
"As teachers we always are open to discuss ways to assure children are safe," he said.
Complaints that do not lead to disciplinary action are put into a so-called "expired file" that is kept at the school. Deasy has ordered principals to review all expired files.
The district has been hit with a flurry of sexual abuse cases since Berndt's arrest last month. In the aftermath, it was discovered that Berndt and another teacher charged with sexual misconduct, George Hernandez, were never reported to the state teacher licensing commission.
Hernandez was investigated in three sexual misconduct cases, but no action was taken. After resigning as the third case was being investigated, he was later hired by the Inglewood Unified School District, where he is alleged to have molested a 7-year old girl. He is now a fugitive.
The commission does not need a criminal conviction to discipline teachers in sexual misconduct cases. If a teacher is charged, the commission can revoke the license or take other disciplinary action.
Information from: Los Angeles Times, www.latimes.com