Six weeks after the molestation scandal broke at Miramonte Elementary, three LAUSD board members called Monday for changes in state laws and district policies to make it easier to fire employees in cases of sexual misconduct.
One resolution to be voted on Tuesday calls for streamlining the dismissal process for teachers arrested in sexual misconduct cases, and the other calls for creating a procedure for notifying parents about these cases.
During a morning news conference, San Fernando Valley school board member Tamar Galatzan called the sex-abuse cases “disgusting and tragic” and said they have tarnished the reputation of the district and made parents fearful and frustrated about the safety of their children.
Galatzan, a city prosecutor, authored the resolution seeking support for changing the state law to streamline the process for firing problem teachers. Currently, teachers can repeatedly appeal their dismissal by the school board and continue to receive their paycheck and benefits while their case is pending.
“It’s very hard when the state Education Code dictates so much of what goes on in a school district, and we really are hampered by a lot of state codes that don’t support kids,” Galatzan said.
Most appeals by dismissed teachers are settled by the district, said Alexander Molinda, the district’s chief labor and employment counsel.
That’s what happened with suspected teacher Mark Berndt, who was paid $40,000
to halt his appeal after he was fired for allegedly molesting nearly two dozen students at Miramonte Elementary.
Board member Nury Martinez, who represents the East Valley, spoke in support of a resolution that would require Superintendent John Deasy to establish a formal process for notifying parents and an independent state credentialing commission when teachers are under criminal or administrative investigation in South Los Angeles.
Board member Nury Martinez said parents of
all students at a campus should be notified when an arrest is made.
“That is absolutely a trigger for us to notify parents,” she said.
The union for LAUSD’s teachers released a statement saying it supports measures to increase student safety, but it cautioned against “hasty, misguided responses.”
To ensure the safety of our students, school board members and district officials must commit to the important work of conducting thorough and sober investigations,” said the statement from United Teachers Los Angeles. “All parties must avoid the temptation to grandstand in the face of this critical situation.
The board members’ proposals come in the wake of a series of sexual abuse allegations against LAUSD
personnel, including Berndt and Martin Springer, who have been fired from their teaching posts at Miramonte Elementary.
Another teacher, Paul Chapel III, was arrested last October on charges of sexual abusing four children and has pleaded not guilty. The school board is scheduled Tuesday to vote on firing Chapel, who has taught at Telfair Elementary in Pacoima since 1998.
He taught at Andasol Elementary in Northridge from 1988-97, but was reassigned after being tried on charges of molesting an 8-year-old neighbor boy. That trial ended in a hung jury.