Lemon Raid

Los Angeles school chief puts children’s needs over those of 600 sadists, pedophiles and assorted creeps. The teachers union is outraged.

In any other field, getting rid of misbehaving or poorly performing employees is a natural and ongoing occurrence. Business leaders who don’t set standards and hold workers accountable will see their clientele shrink. But in the world of teacher union-dominated public education, putting customers first – in this case, children and their parents – is a headline-making event.

Superintendent John Deasy, who has incurred the wrath of the United Teachers of Los Angeles of late, did nothing to endear himself to the union by cracking down on miscreant teachers earlier this month. In fact, with Deasy leading the charge, the Los Angeles school board fired 100, got 200 to resign, and designated 300 more to be “housed” or removed from the classroom pending further investigation. According to Barbara Jones, writing in the LA Daily News,

The personnel files stretched the length of the 15-foot conference table in Superintendent John Deasy’s office, a chronicle of the corporal punishment, verbal and physical abuse and sexual misconduct reported in the classrooms of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Cuts and bruises. Curses and racial slurs. Caresses and pornography.

In the past, the misdeeds detailed in the teachers’ files would likely have earned the offender a disciplinary memo, maybe a week’s suspension, perhaps a transfer to another school.

Today, they’re grounds for firing.

UTLA, shocked that the historically passive school district actually made a move that benefitted children, was predictably furious. Its leaders characterized Deasy’s actions as a “witch hunt,” claiming that he is “using misconduct allegations to get rid of troublesome teachers and those on the upper rungs of the experience and pay scale.”

Really?

Here are some specifics about a few of the “teachers” who are now out of the classroom:

  • A Westside elementary teacher in his early 60s ‘trained’ his students to give him a full-body massage for 20 minutes every day while he ‘rested.’
  • A teacher at a San Fernando Valley elementary school who disciplined youngsters by locking them in a bathroom or barricading them in a corner using tables and chairs.
  • An Eastside elementary teacher used clothespins to pinch the ears of youngsters who weren’t paying attention to the lesson. The same teacher also discouraged thumb-sucking by putting nasty-tasting disinfectant on kids’ fingers and forced students to scrub their desks using cleanser and their bare hands.
  • A rash of sex-related complaints were made in the weeks after the Miramonte scandal broke, including allegations of tickling and fondling, and inappropriate and vulgar comments made in class. One high school student said a female teacher inexplicably took her along when she went shopping for sex toys in Hollywood. … Nearly a dozen male teachers were fired for pornography found on their district-issued laptops.

A horrified and angst-filled UTLA lawyer, Richard Schwab, sputtered, “… many veteran teachers opt to resign rather than pursue an administrative hearing because they fear losing their lifetime health benefits if the ruling goes against them.”

Schwab may be right. But this raises a bigger question. If a teacher is guilty of committing crimes against children, why does he or she deserve a penny in “lifetime health benefits?” Or a generous pension for that matter? But that is a discussion for another day.

In any event, despite the seemingly good news, this story is far from settled. For those teachers who haven’t taken their health and pension benefits and run, there are still appeals and hearings and then more appeals and hearings. Again, Barbara Jones:

Under current law, teachers who are fired by the school board have 30 days to appeal their dismissal to the state’s Office of Administrative Hearings. It assigns each case to a panel composed of an administrative law judge and two educators – one chosen by the teacher, the other by the district – which reviews evidence and hears witness testimony before deciding whether or not the teacher should be fired. That process may take years, however, and cost the district hundreds of thousands of dollars in staff time and legal fees.

In fact, thanks to our teacher union friends, here is what is laughably called “due process” for teachers in California:

How ineffective teachers are dismissed in California

1. School district must document specific examples of ineffective performance, based on standards set by the district and the local teachers union.

2. If a teacher has been cited for unsatisfactory performance worthy of dismissal, a school district must give the teacher written notice and provide her 90 calendar days to correct.

3. After 90 days, school district files written dismissal charges. If the school board votes to approve dismissal, it adopts official charges and a resolution of intent to dismiss teacher. Notice cannot be given between May 15 and September 15.

4. Once teacher receives notice that she will be dismissed in 30 days, she can request a hearing to be held within 30 days.

5. School board must reconvene to decide whether to proceed. If it proceeds, it must serve the employee with an accusation as set forth in the state’s Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

6. If teacher makes a second demand for a hearing, it is scheduled with the state Office of Administrative Hearings and held within 60 days. The hearing is similar to a civil trial with each side having rights to discovery. 

7. The hearing is held before a three-person Commission on Professional Competence consisting of an administrative judge and persons appointed by the school board and the teacher or her union representative.

8. After the hearing, the commission issues a written decision by majority vote either voting for dismissal or reinstatement.

9. If either the teacher or the school district appeals the decision, it will be heard by the state superior court.

10. Further appeals are heard by the state Court of Appeal.

Sources: California Legislative Analyst’s Office; California Office of Administrative Hearings.

As pointed out by Jones, the stickiest part of the above process is #7 because the unions control the action. The judge is invariably “union-friendly.” The offender gets to pick a teacher to be on the three-person panel. (Ya think he or she might choose a sympathetic one?) The third member of the panel is a teacher supplied by the district, more often than not – you guessed it – another union member. The odds are so stacked that as Matthias Gafni reports,

California has more than 1,000 school districts and 300,000 teachers, yet only 667 dismissal cases were filed with the Office of Administrative Hearings between January 2003 and March 2012, according to the Los Angeles Unified School District’s chief labor and employment counsel, Alex Molina. Only 130 of those actually got to the hearing stage, and 82 resulted in dismissals — fewer than 10 a year.

Last year, State Senator Alex Padilla tried to put a dent in the system by introducing SB 1530, a bill that would eliminate the two teachers from the panel, make the judge’s ruling advisory and leave the final decision up to the local school district. But the California Teachers Association managed to “convince” their “friends” on the Assembly education committee to kill the proposed legislation. Currently, there is a much milder bill, AB 375, making its way around the legislature. It would shorten the interminable dismissal process, but leave the three-person Commission on Professional Competence intact. CTA backs this bill, which is all you need to know about its effectiveness.

How LAUSD’s bold move eventually plays out is anybody’s guess. But whatever the outcome, John Deasy deserves a heap of praise. By trying to rid a noble profession of hundreds of “lemons,” he has done a great service to children and their families, which means of course he will be even more targeted by UTLA. And how that will play out is also anybody’s guess.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.

3 replies
  1. Rene Diedrich says:

    I really should not waste my time here but the fallacious rhetoric begs to be explicated even if Sands will not allow himself to be enlightened. Hyperbole is never a great sign for any argument no matter how valid the points can and should be, and here it spills over in both directions. To assume all thesse teachers are perverts, sadists and assorted creeps is a lowly generalization that suggests lower intelligence. But in Sands’ defense the sarcasm is perhaps not undeserved given how difficult it has been to get these kinds of teachers out of the schools and into jails where they belong. And tge propaganda is hard to dismiss. Even teachers bought that crap.

    It may stun you to learn many teachers share the public’s scorn for unions and they frown at the former difficulty there was in unloading teachers who were incompetent or much worse. But it was as much a district issue as the union’s. Teachers in LA have no choice but to join the union, pay dues and risk the wrath of rabid colleagues if they dare resist the lemming urge to strike. Teachers are not their unions. They have no more say in what is done by union thugs than they do when district criminals make their moves to blow billions on iPads or campus cops.

    What we do is pay attention in some cases, because for a few of us knowledge is still power.

    Sands may ape an urgent sort of authority but he clearly did not do adequate research about Deasy before annointing him some sort of iconoclastic hero. It sounds like Mr. Deasy goes to Washington to be thwarted but undaunted in his efforts to change state laws about teacher dismissal.

    These are laws Deasy has never obeyed. This is a pattern of his. If you were thorough you’d know Deasy followed a district tradition in protecting Mark Berndt, who was not fired but retired by Deasy when police reported the teacher’s antics to Deasy. Deasy did not abide a law to report this teacher to CTC nor did he inform parents their children were possibly abused and may have been exposed to bodily fluids that were infected with STDs, AIDs Hep and other cooties. He endangered them and potentially new victims as Berndt was able to work if he eished. He had his credential. No charges were made until year after he was retired. Deasy told staff not to talk to detectives, interfering in an investigation, which is a felony. Deasy never thought anything would come out because Berndt should have ran. Maybe both got too smug. But only Berndt faces consequences for that. He is on the wrong side of spin. Deasy never seems to be.

    To make sure school officials are accountable now GOV Brown did pass a bill about the duty to report these teachers to CTC, which these districts only do when railroading innocent teachers.however even that storry was buried and disguised by headlines that maligned teachers more. There are at least 12000 of these innocent teachers, and they are all (but a few) veterans who Deasy decided to cheat out of pensions and lifetime healthcare. That new law would have smoothed things over, but oh well? The union is not complaining, as the TFA replacing the real teachers pay dues too and they will be a lot less work with two year emp status and miraculous professional skills besides ( sarcasm). But Sands, as reductive and unreliable as you are, why should a ruined teacher deny you a chance to bash us again? What use do we have otherwise?

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