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Update: Teacher Dismissal Bill Heads to State Senate

Brianna Sacks | June 10, 2013

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A controversial bill aimed at ensuring teachers accused of sexual misconduct and other immoral acts can be more easily removed from the classroom is now awaiting referral in the Senate Rules Committee before its eventual hearing by the Senate Education Committee.

Given the array of allies and opponents focused on teacher misconduct — especially after reports of ongoing sexual misconduct at Miramonte Elementary School shocked LAUSD — the bill’s next step will be closely followed and hotly debated.

Recently passed by the House, the bill (known as AB 375) being championed by Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo) will be heard and referred in the next seven to 10 days, according to the Senate Rules Committee’s Bob Franzoia.

“The Education Committee should hear this bill by June 26 or July 3,” said Franzoia.

The Buchanan legislation is a response to the Miramonte scandal, where Los Angeles Unified elementary school teacher Mark Berndt was fired and charged with 23 counts of sexual misconduct with students.

Berndt appealed the case and the district chose to pay $40,000 to drop his challenge, according to the Sacramento Bee.

A previous and somewhat stronger version of the legislation, AB 1530, was proposed and defeated last summer, thanks in large part to opposition from teachers unions.

Lawmakers’ votes against the legislation made national news and contributed to the defeat of at least one Assemblymember in November 2012.

Buchanan’s AB 375 would set a deadline of seven months for the administrative appeal, start to finish, expanding the current law’s deadline of 60 days

However, LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy has expressed concerns about the legislation despite amendments made earlier this month.

Deasy is not alone.  The current union-backed bill doesn’t strengthen the teacher dismissal process nearly enough, according to former State Senator Gloria Romero.

In a highly critical piece published by the Orange County Register, Romero asked, “what good is shortening the [dismissal] timeline if it only results in a the same flawed outcome?”

The California Teachers Federation says the bill’s timeline is needed to give removed teachers ample time to prepare their cases.

And, according to CTA spokesperson Frank Wells, AB 375 is also opening the door to companion legislation aimed at holding school districts and administrators accountable for school employees accused of child abuse.

“AB 375’s companion bill, AB 1338 would strengthen reporting and employee education requirements on school districts,” Wells told LA School Report.

“We believe school districts should face penalties for not following the law and failing to report serious misconduct to the Commission on Teacher Credentialing; that is an issue that still needs to be addressed.”

Previous posts: Mixed Reactions to New Teacher Dismissal Bill, Villaraigosa Expresses Concerns About Teacher Dismissal Bill, Deasy Wants Stronger Teacher Dismissal Bill

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