Unions Create Teacher ‘House Arrest’ in Los Angeles

Unions Create Teacher ‘House Arrest’ in Los Angeles
June 13, 2014
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For years, teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District who have been accused of misconduct sit around as they wait for investigators to figure out if they are guilty. These so-called “teacher jails” or “rubber rooms” are district offices in which the accused sit, eat, and talk to each other and text their friends Monday through Friday during school hours. The “prisoners” cannot be asked to do any office work—like filing or answering phones—which is “outside their regular duties.” They can’t even contact substitute teachers to give them lesson plans.

In a change ordered by LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy, the doors of the jails were thrown open and the inhabitants are now sentenced to what is tantamount to house arrest. They are required to stay at home during the work day, and may leave during that time only if they are summoned elsewhere as part of the investigation.

Does it really matter where a teacher is made to sit out their investigation? Not really, but it does help taxpayers if they don’t have to subsidize the care and maintenance of the “jails” and the supervision of the “inmates.” At this time there are about 250 teachers (there have been over 400 in the past) who will now get to stay home instead of reporting to a district office.

Hire More Investigators
Just what crimes do these housed teachers commit? The misconduct can range anywhere from sexual wrongdoing to being verbally abusive, failing to follow rules for standardized tests or even excessively missing work.  Also, the teachers are often not told what they are being accused of for lengthy periods of time.

As James Poulos writes, “On the one hand, teachers guilty of firing offenses are detained for an extraordinarily long period of time—127 days on average. On the other, the vast majority of accused teachers lose their jobs and benefits when their investigations concluded. Only about 20 percent leave ‘rubber rooms’ and pick up where they left off.”

This is all shameful—for the taxpayer, for the 20 percent ultimately found “not guilty,” and for the teachers’ students who have to be taught by subs during the lengthy investigative period. LAUSD needs to hire many more investigators and resolve these cases much quicker. The additional hires would pay for themselves because evidence tells us that most of the teachers will be found guilty or quit before going through the pain of a trial. That will save the district and state the cost of the teachers’ salaries, health benefit,s and additional pension accrual, as well as outlay for hiring subs.

Destroying Key Records
LAUSD showed its insouciance in another way recently. On May 1, it was revealed that the district destroyed documents that may have held key evidence in child abuse cases. Included in the shredding was crucial ammo in the case of Mark Berndt, second grade teacher and legendary semen-topped cookie server at Miramonte Elementary School who is now in jail…the real kind.

Then we learned that a judge has ordered LAUSD to pay a $6,000 penalty for denying it had photos that show alleged sexual abuse at Miramonte. (Please keep in mind that these are the folks who are in charge of educating 600,000 students In Los Angeles!)

Why Does This Even Happen?
But there is plenty more blame to go around for teacher jails. Why do we have them in the first place? There are no “bank teller jails” or “pastry chef jails.”

Because the teacher unions are all powerful, that’s why. It’s all due to the arcane and unconscionable dismissal statues, brought to us by the California Teachers Association and their cronies in the state legislature: “(L)ess than 0.002% of California’s hundreds of thousands of teachers are dismissed for unprofessional conduct or unsatisfactory performance in any given year. This compares to the 1% of other California public employees dismissed annually for unprofessional conduct or unsatisfactory performance and the 8% of private employees dismissed…”

But there may be help on the way. Assembly Bill 215 would speed up the dismissal process for teachers who commit serious crimes. Among other things, the bill would:

  • Create a separate, expedited hearing process after a school board has voted to fire a teacher for egregious misconduct.
  • Impose a seven-month deadline for a judge to issue a decision in all dismissal cases, unless the judge agrees to a delay for good cause.
  • Allow districts to suspend without pay teachers charged with egregious and immoral conduct.
  • Prohibit districts from cutting deals with teachers to have charges of misconduct expunged from their record—potentially enabling them to relocate to an unsuspecting district.
  • Permit dismissal charges for egregious misconduct to be filed at any time, not just during the school year.

And the Students Matter case (Vergara v. California) should be resolved soon. It could excise seniority, tenure, and the dismissal statutes from the state’s education code, making it considerably easier and less expensive for school districts to get rid of criminal and low-quality teachers.

But until then, we are left with a bumbling school district and a teachers union that is hell-bent on protecting every last dues-paying member, no matter how incompetent or evil, while sacrificing children and hosing taxpayers.

Privatization or home schooling, anyone?

This article is reprinted from Union Watch with permission. Image by Brandon.