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In a major policy shift, the LA Unified school district will no longer require teachers under investigation to report to so-called “teacher jails.”
“We’ve done this a number of times with some teachers over the years, and it has worked,” the district’s chief counsel, David Holmquist, said in an interview. “We felt like the effort had not caused any problems so it was a good time to expand to all teachers on administrative leave.”
The policy change was done administratively and did not require school board approval. The issue has not even come before the board in recent meetings although member Tamar Galatzan suggested home housing in a March resolution to improve the process by which teachers are investigated.
Alex Caputo-Pearl, the incoming president of the teachers union, UTLA, called the change “positive in that it will ameliorate some of the horrible conditions that educators face in the actual ‘teacher jail’ rooms.”
“However,” he said, “we need LAUSD to move aggressively to restore stability to students and due process to educators by allowing the vast majority of educators currently housed, who are no danger to their students, to return to their schools.”
Caputo-Pearl takes over from Warren Fletcher on July 1.
Currently, Holmquist said, 251 employees are out of their schools and classrooms while the district investigates charges against them. In the past, he said, “about 10 to 15 percent” of teachers in “jail” have been allowed to remain at home.
The change in policy saves the district money in eliminating the need for personnel to supervise “jailed” teachers and in clearing space in rooms that can now be used for other purposes.
“Teacher jails” has been one of the most troublesome issues for the teachers union. During the recent union elections, all the presidential candidates were united in expressing disdain for them, calling for their end and for the investigations to be faster and more transparent.
Holmquist said school districts are generally an anomaly among government agencies in having employees on paid leave report to a building during an investigation. Most agencies, he said, have their employees remain at home.
“We share the union’s concern that investigations should be conducted more expeditiously, and we’re hiring more investigators to expedite the process,” Holmquist said, adding that for the change in policy, “Overall, we felt this was the best thing to do.”
* Clarifies start date of new policy and adds comment from Alex Caputo-Pearl.