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To speed up probes, LAUSD has doubled investigation team

Mike Szymanski | July 20, 2015

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miramonte schoolThe staff that investigates allegations against residents of LA Unified’s “teacher jail” has doubled since the team started last year, with the aim of clearing cases faster.

The Student Safety Investigation Team (SSIT) now has 15 members, including six full-time investigators, four LA school police, two forensic specialists and one supervising investigator. The team is directed by Jose Cantu, who has worked at LAUSD for more than 30 years, including 14 years as a principal at Eastman Avenue Elementary School.

“This is unique for a team like this in any school district in the United States,” said district spokeswoman Shannon Haber.

The backgrounds of the staff working on the SSIT reflect expertise in police policies and investigative education.

One of the investigators is formerly from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s department. Three investigators once worked for the Los Angeles Police Department.

One of the investigators has had FBI experience and one is from the Department of Social Services.

The SSIT investigates employee misconduct against students while the subject of the investigation, a teacher or staff member, is moved from the classroom to “jail.” The team responds to complaints from a variety of sources, such as students, a fellow teacher or a parent. If an investigation produces evidence of criminal misconduct, the SSIT will take it to the proper authorities.

As of July 1, SSIT members were investigating 174 district employees, most of them teachers. The total includes 65 accused of questionable sexual abuse or harassment while the rest face accusations on a variety of other issues, including 55, who have been cited for acts of violence.

The total reflects 151 certificated employees and 23 classified, such as teacher assistants, library aides, janitors and other support staff.

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