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WTF: Why are the California Teachers' unions protecting alleged teacher/child molesters?

It is always amazing to me that the teachers’ unions all loudly cry “it’s for the children” when budgets are cut or they are seeking raises.

We all know that this is largely a fiction and that the largest cost of operating as a school system is personnel costs, both administrative and instructional personnel. It has always been more about the adult salaries, perks and privileges than it has about pushing dollars into the classroom where they would directly benefit children. Leading many teachers to complain they are forced to purchase supplies and instructional materials out of their own pockets.

But when it really comes to protecting children from teachers who molest children, there is often a strange silence and many times a quiet pushback against laws, rules and regulations that would allow school districts to fire teachers on an expedited basis. Rules which cost the taxpayer millions of dollars – even when the teacher is actually found guilty of a criminal offense.

Senate Bill S.B. 1530 …

“Under existing law, a permanent school employee is prohibited from being dismissed, except for one or more of certain enumerated causes, including for immoral or unprofessional conduct and unsatisfactory performance. Upon a charging that there exists cause for the dismissal or suspension of a permanent employee, existing law authorizes the governing board of a school district to give notice to the employee of its intention to dismiss or suspend the employee, as specified. Existing law prohibits the governing board of a school district from giving notice of dismissal or suspension of a permanent employee between May 15 and September 15 of any year.”

“This bill would include serious or egregious unprofessional conduct, as specified, as a ground for dismissal of a permanent school employee, and would except from the prohibition of giving notice to the employee between May 15 and September 15 proceedings where the charges involve specified offenses.”

“This bill would include serious or egregious unprofessional conduct , as defined, within the conditions that a governing board may immediately suspend a permanent employee.”

“This bill would remove marijuana, mescaline, peyote, and tetrahydrocannabinols as exceptions to the controlled substance offenses for which a certificated employee may be charged with a mandatory leave of absence offense or an optional leave of absence offense.”

“This bill would, for hearings on the dismissal or suspension of a permanent employee that involve certain sex offenses, controlled substance offenses, or child abuse offenses, as specified, require these hearings to be conducted solely by an administrative law judge of the Office of Administrative Hearings and would provide that the decision of the administrative law judge related to these specified offenses would be advisory, and require the final decision regarding the discipline of the employee to be determined by action of the governing board of the school district, as specified.”

”The bill would require the governing board, before making its final determination, to allow the employee to submit a written statement or response or, at the election of the governing board, an oral statement concerning the disciplinary action, and to only consider the record produced during the hearing conducted by the administrative law judge, and would require the governing board's final determination to be subject to review and appeal, as specified.”

”The bill also would exempt hearings that involve these specified offenses from the prohibition on giving testimony and introducing evidence relating to matters that occurred more than 4 years before the date of the filing of the notice, and would, for hearings that involve the specified offenses, permit a decision relating to the dismissal or suspension of an employee to be made based on charges or evidence related to matters occurring more than 4 years before the date of the filing of the notice of charges for the dismissal or suspension of the employee.”

So why shouldn’t we demand that the California Teachers Association, the California Federation of Teachers and UTLA (United Teachers, Los Angeles) explain why they have not supported Senate Bill 1530 which appears to have died in committee?

Could it be because the proposed legislation removes the exceptions to teacher’s drug usage?

Could it be because the proposed legislation removes hiding investigations and offenses which may have occurred more than four years prior and which might raise issues regarding a “pattern of conduct?”

Could it be because the proposed legislation allows the school board and administration to take more direct action without the usual administrivia procedures which make it easier to keep child molesters gainfully employed and paying union dues while they sit at home or are sequestered in a job away from children?

It can’t be about the bill’s author, a well-educated democrat liberal …

“Born to immigrant parents from Mexico he was raised in the San Fernando Valley community of Pacoima where he excelled in local public schools. He attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology  and graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. After a stint working for Hughes Aircraft and completing the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs, Padilla went to work for U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and later, then-Assemblymember Tony Cardenas before running for public office.”

Alex Padilla was first elected to public office in 1999, when at the age of 26 he ran for Los Angeles City Council. Just two years later, in July of 2001, his council colleagues elected him council president. Padilla was not only the first Latino, but the youngest person ever elected city council president. He was unanimously re-elected twice and served as council president of America’s second largest city for 4 ½ years. He stepped down as council president on January 1, 2006 when he launched his campaign for the State Senate.” <Source>

In fact, the committee on education, while voting down the bill, extended Padilla the face-saving courtesy of keeping the bill open for “reconsideration.” 

One union’s position: it’s a “flawed proposal”  …

From the California Teachers Association Blog: “Panel Defeats Opposed Padilla Bill After Educators Charge District Officials with Failing to Comply with Current Laws Protecting Children”

In the California Assembly … “SB 1530 needed six “aye” votes to secure the committee’s approval, but only five of the body’s 11 legislators were willing to vote for the flawed proposal that would have undermined educators’ rights to a fair hearing without addressing district management’s failure to follow current laws designed to ensure districts act swiftly and appropriately in response to any charges of educator misconduct.” <Source>

Status of current affairs …

“The Los Angeles Unified School District agreed last June to pay about $40,000 to settle its dismissal case against former Miramonte Elementary teacher Mark Berndt, who has since been charged with 23 counts of lewd conduct, including spoon-feeding his semen to children.” <Source

“LAUSD Paid Miramonte Teacher to Resign”

“Under the agreement, Mark Berndt, 61, is entitled to his full pension and retirement health benefits.”

“LAUSD paid the teacher at the center of the Miramonte child sexual abuse scandal $40,000 as part of a settlement in the wake of accusations of classroom behavior deemed ‘immoral’ and ‘unprofessional’ as well as a claim of  ‘evident unfitness for service.’”

“Among the accusations levied against Berndt in an administrative hearing:

  • blindfolded students and allowed himself to be blindfolded
  • taped several students’ mouths as well as his own,
  • spoon-fed students ‘an unknown cloudy-colored liquid substance,’ and
  • fed students cookies with ‘an unknown cloudy-colored liquid substance.’”

“The case first came to the public’s attention in January, when Berndt was arrested and held on $23 million bail for allegedly committing felony molestation with 23 children ages 6 to 10.” <Source>

Regardless of the teacher’s alleged actions, one must ask why the school district felt compelled to reward an alleged child molester with his full pension and health benefits and then give him $40,000 additional pay to settle the matter – rather than firing him for cause and demanding that he lose his pension and healthcare benefits? Something is wrong with the unions and the school district which would shut down an entire school, transfer all teachers and then disburse taxpayer’s funds as if they were not spending educational dollars which could be used for instructional purposes.

Bottom Line …

How can a bill that had the support of the school board, Los Angeles’ Mayor and other educations,  who claimed that the bill preserved the accused’s legal rights to due process while giving school officials tools to protect children from child molesters in a timely manner,  be opposed by the union?

Personally, I think the union’s attempt to conflate the issue and turn the responsibility for keeping child molesters employed in the school system towards the individual school districts is classic misdirection. I think that they fear removing drugs as an exception to the rules for which a teacher can be dismissed will result in a large number of their members being susceptible to losing their jobs. And with many liberals being pro-marijuana advocates, I think that, once again, it is not about protecting the children; but about protecting the unionized adults.

We need to elect non-partisan, non-political candidates to school boards; especially those like the Los Angeles Unified School District which has become a tangle of big-money politics and special interests with an agenda that does not serve our children well.

-- steve

Reference Links …

Senate Bill S.B. 1530 – Legislative Counsel’s Digest

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