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LAUSD sexual predator teacher removal may face new policies

March 12, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Two new policies to protect students from sexual predators were unveiled by board members of the Los Angeles Unified School District Monday morning.

Officials hope the proposals will better protect students. Due to union rules and state regulations the process to fire a teacher can take years, even in cases of sexual misconduct.

"There have been several disgusting and tragic allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct," said L.A. School Board Member Tamar Galatzan. "There has been a breach of trust in our district."

So far this year, 11 district employees have been investigated for sex crimes. Seven of them were arrested, including Mark Berndt, a former teacher at Miramonte Elementary School. Berndt was arrested in January and charged with 23 counts of lewd acts with his students.Due to current rules, Berndt was able to resign with full benefits before he could be fired.

"Frequently what districts across this state do because they know this is such a protracted, expensive process, is you end up settling with people who really should be fired," said Galatzan.

One of the new resolutions, titled "Protecting Children in the Classroom," is a call to legislators and aims to streamline the process to dismiss certificated employees, such as teachers, who are accused of child molestation.

The second resolution, called "Improving Transparency," aims at creating ways to notify parents about misconduct. In the Miramonte case, parents were upset about not being told about the alleged incidents sooner. Officials said it was because they did not want to hinder the ongoing investigation.

"Parents don't care to understand the bureaucracy or the red tape that occurs in our district," said L.A. School Board Member Yuri Martinez. "They just want to make sure that we are communicating with them and being straightforward as to why they weren't notified to begin with."

Changing some of these rules could involve union negotiations. Some worry that there may be a fight in Sacramento.

"To stand up and change the laws that protect adults who have been accused of and arrested, and sometimes convicted in a way that no other employee has that protection," said L.A. School Board President Monica Garcia.

The board members will introduce the proposals officially during Tuesday's school board meeting.