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LA district moves to end ‘teacher jails’

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POSTED May 27, 2014 6:52 p.m.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Teachers under investigation for possible misconduct will be allowed to stay home during their suspensions rather than report every workday to Los Angeles school district offices referred to as “teacher jails.”

The policy change, ordered by Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy, went into effect Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times reported.

It affects about 250 instructors who face allegations such as breaking district rules, mishandling money or abusing students.

The standard practice had been for suspended teachers to report to a non-campus office during the workday — typically doing little while under supervision. Some have remained “housed,” as the district terms it, for several years, the newspaper said.

Although the teachers are paid, some said they consider the mandatory reporting obligations humiliating. They cannot do work outside of their regular duties or contact substitutes to provide lesson plans for their students.

United Teachers Los Angeles had pushed for ending the practice, but the district said its action was not in response to the union.

“There are costs associated with maintaining employees in a workplace,” district general counsel David Holmquist told the Times. “There are supervision issues. There also are other opportunities to use the space.”

Other government agencies routinely have employees wait out investigations at home, Holmquist said.

Alex Caputo-Pearl, the union’s president-elect, challenged Holmquist’s explanation for the change.

“The district’s move was brought about by the pressure generated over the last few months from parents, school communities and educators,” he said.

The union has argued that many housed teachers ought to be sent back to classroom because they pose no threat and students need them.

Holmquist agreed that many presented no danger. They were kept from work to prevent compromising evidence or witnesses, he said.

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