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Los Angeles school board members seek new misconduct rules for district teachers

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POSTED March 12, 2012 7:51 p.m.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Three members of the Los Angeles Unified school board on Monday called for revisions in state laws and district policies to make it easier to fire employees in cases of sexual misconduct and inform parents of investigations.

Board president Monica Garcia and members Tamar Galatzan and Nury Martinez said they will present two resolutions stemming from a series of sexual misconduct cases that have roiled the school district since January, when a former elementary teacher was arrested on 23 charges of committing lewd acts on students.

One resolution calls on legislators to streamline the dismissal process for teachers in sexual misconduct cases and prohibit convicted molesters from receiving pension and retirement benefits.

Galatzan noted that state law limits what the district can do even in egregious cases of sexual abuse. It can take two to seven years to fire a tenured teacher, depending on the number of appeals filed, she said.

"My policy asks the state to change the law so that employees who engage in acts that are immoral or criminal can be dismissed faster and at less cost to the district," she said.

After firing former Miramonte Elementary School teacher Mark Berndt, the district had to pay him $40,000 so he would retire or face the possibility that he would be reinstated to his classroom job upon appeal since he was still under criminal investigation.

The teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles, said in a statement that it supported "thorough and sober" investigations of employee misconduct, but that it was important that people avoid grandstanding and administrators be given proper support. Miramonte, which has 1,400 students, is run by a principal with no assistant, it noted.

The board members issued a second call for district policy changes that would make it easier to identify, remove and prosecute employees who abuse children. The measure also calls for creating a procedure for notifying parents about these cases.

Parents were angered that Berndt and other teachers were removed from the classroom but they were not told about the reason.

The board members plan to present their resolutions to the full board on Tuesday.

 

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