Deasy Calls for Stronger Laws to Get Rid of Abusive Teachers
Vanessa Romo | November 15, 2013
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LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy used the resolution of the Mark Berndt molestation case to campaign for a new law that would make it easier to get rid of abusive teachers.
Berndt, a Miramonte Elementary School teacher who was accused of abusing 23 students under the age of 14, pleaded no contest in court today and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
At a press conference after the sentencing, Deasy said the district will continue to implement reforms and push for a stronger teacher dismissal bill that would “get individuals out of the system quicker and less expensively.”
“We have continued to try to work with the legislature and legislators to make it easier and far less expensive to remove employees who have allegedly committed heinous acts on children,” he said. “And we have not been successful.”
Deasy angrily criticized groups like unions and adult advocacy constituencies for thwarting meaningful reforms.
Last month Governor Jerry Brown vetoed AB 375, a bill intended to streamline the teacher dismissal process. While it was supported by the California Teachers Association, critics said it was a weak bill that had been watered down as it moved through the legislature. Brown agreed, saying it was a step in the right direction but inevitably “an imperfect solution.”
AB 375, in part, grew out of an earlier bill from Senator Alex Padilla of Los Angeles, which was introduced in the wake of the Miramonte scandal but died in the legislature last year.
“I am not interested in adjusting or tweaking current laws so that all the adult constituencies are comfortable,” Deasy said. “All I hear through the process is, ‘We’re not comfortable with those changes.’ Really? Really? You’re not comfortable with those changes? You feel discomfort? Come with me and spend time with some of the victims at Miramonte. Come with me and talk to parents who try to make sense out of what happened to them. Come talk to teachers who had the trust of children in their hands in a room next door. That’s discomfort.”
Deasy alluded to a new initiative, called “Stop Child Molesters, Sexual Abusers, and Drug Dealers from Working in California Schools Act,” that would put the decision the hands of voters through a ballot measure.
The ballot measure represents an end-around the legislature, which has been caught between public outcry to remove predators and drug dealers from schools more quickly and powerful teacher unions that have lobbied for a more comprehensive due process protocols.
“I’m tired of waiting,” Deasy said.
Because of the way current laws are written LA Unified is often forced to pay teachers accused of misconduct just to get rid of them. In the case of Berndt, he received $40,000 to end his challenge to the district’s recommendation to fire him.
“I want our $40,000 back,” Deasy said. “I want it returned to LAUSD so we can spend it on hiring more counselor that are helping the victims of Miramonte.”
Berndt, who taught in the district for more than 30 years, will continue to receive a pension while he’s in prison.
The district’s general counsel, David Holmquist, said he didn’t know the exact amount, but based on the number of years Berndt was with the district, he estimated the pension would be “about $40,000 to $50,000 a year.”
So far, 63 cases stemming from Miramonte have been settled for $30 million. Seventy-one are still pending.