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Teacher Misconduct Proposal Wins Unexpected Support

Hillel Aron | April 9, 2013

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While a recent Daily News headline described LAUSD Board Member Tamar Galatzan’s new “teacher jail” proposal as an “overhaul” of the current system, the resolution is probably best described as an effort at streamlining the process.

Slated for a vote at next Tuesday’s Board meeting, the Galatzan resolution would shorten the time it takes to inform teachers what they’re being accused of, speed the internal investigation process for teachers whose actions may be inappropriate but fall short of criminal prosecution, and put the internal investigation in the hands of district rather than school-based staff.

And — thanks to its modest scope and careful planning that went into the development process — the proposal by the San Fernando Valley-based Board member is being cosponsored not only by Board member Monica Garcia but also UTLA-friendly Board member Bennett Kayser, whom Galatzan says volunteered to co-sponsor the resolution.

“We met with [United Teachers of Los Angeles], [Associated Administrators of LA], and district staff,” said Galatzan. “We got everyone’s input on what they thought the problem was. That was our jumping-off point.”

The Board fired 99 teachers and allowed 122 others to resign last year, according to the Daily News — and has already fired 24 and allowed 92 to resign as of February 2013.

Normally, when a teacher is accused of physically and seriously harming a child (i.e., hitting them or touching them inappropriately), law enforcement officials investigate.

During the investigation, the teacher is removed from a classroom and placed in a so-called “teacher jail” or “rubber room” pending investigation of alleged misdeeds .

The time teachers spend there can be lengthy — most of it due the time it takes for law enforcement to do its investigation, according to Galatzan.

According to a November 2012 audit, LAUSD has been required to pay $3 million in salaries to 20 teachers who have been ‘housed’ (removed from site) the longest while being investigated for misconduct – including one who’s been housed for 4.5 years.

In most cases, teachers do not end up returning to the classroom.  Last year, only 16 returned, and only 14 have been reassigned as of December this year.

However, sometimes law enforcement, for a variety of reasons, determines that there is no criminal act or decides it can’t make the charges stick.

That’s where Galatzan’s resolution comes in.

“My resolution targets what happens next,” according to Galatzan.

Its main purpose is to deal with teachers being accused of the most serious of offenses — such as allegations of physical or sexual misconduct.

In these cases, the school district can investigate any violation of the State education code or the district rules.

And, under the Galatzan proposal, there would be an investigative unit within LAUSD to figure out what, if anything, the accused teacher did, so that, if found guilty, the district has reason to move toward firing the teacher — and administrative school staff aren’t trying to conduct investigations for which they’re not trained.

Galatzan doesn’t know how many investigators would be needed. Should the Board approve her resolution, Superintendent John Deasy would report back within 90 days to say how many investigators the district should hire and how the district would pay for it.

In the meantime, Galatzan is optimistic about the new bill coming out of Sacramento, AB 375, that would make it easier for school districts to fire teachers found guilty of serious misconduct.

“My resolution is almost a companion piece,” she said. “Sacramento is working on making changes to the [state] ed code. My focus is on policies and procedures within the district.”

Previous posts: UTLA Have Different Plans to Reform “Teacher Jails“; UTLA Rails Against “Teacher Jails”LAUSD’s Crowded “Rubber Rooms”“Rubber Room” Teachers Rarely Return

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