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Commentary: Union dishes out blame on sex abuse

Jamie Alter Lynton | December 3, 2012

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UTLA: Everything to Hinder, Nothing to Help?

Lots of blame was dished out last week after a state audit found weak dismissal and reporting practices at LAUSD regarding teachers accused of sexual misconduct.

Especially vocal was UTLA president Warren Fletcher, who has consistently lobbed criticism at LAUSD for how it has managed the scandal.

Now I am a Prop-30-supporting-dyed-in-the-wool union Democrat, but I have to ask – shouldn’t the teachers union also take some responsibility here?  Not if you ask the current UTLA leadership, which continues to insist on sacrificing student well-being to protect even pedophiles.

But things could be changing.

The state audit, triggered by the Miramonte Elementary School scandal earlier this year (in which a teacher was accused of feeding his students semen) served up a series of recommendations for the district to implement.

But LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy had already beaten them to the punch; his swift response in February and overhaul of reporting practices and other measures was acknowledged in the report itself (and touted by Deasy on Thursday morning when the audit was released publicly).

The response by UTLA leadership was to go on the offensive. Fletcher accused LAUSD in the LA Times of ‘wild swings’ in response to misconduct. His remarks (see the LA Times article) ignore the most important implication of the report: that the teachers union, through years of legislation and collective bargaining, has made removing pedophiles from the classroom a lengthy and expensive endeavor.

With such an entrenched and unyielding mindset, UTLA seems bent on driving itself to the fringe and losing the support of ardent Democrats like myself. No amount of finger-pointing will conceal that union leadership has stymied, rather than helped ease the process at every turn.

But there are signs the public is getting fed up. UTLA-booster Betsy Butler was defeated for State Assembly after she killed SB 1530, the bill that would have made firing teachers for sexual misconduct easier.

Could that be the canary in the coal-mine?

On Tuesday the LAUSD School Board is set to discuss a proposal from Board President Monica Garcia to support the reintroduction of legislation in Sacramento to streamline the dismissal process. UTLA-backed board members will be squirming. We will be watching.

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