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LA Unified to review files on teacher misconduct over last 3 years and report to state agency

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Parents and children protest outside Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles, California, February 6, 2012.

L.A. Unified will go back and report (or re-report) every case of a teacher accused of misconduct over the last three years to the state credentialing commission as part of an internal investigation into its failure to provide a timely report on former Miramonte Elementary School teacher Mark Berndt, who is accused of spoon-feeding his semen to children.

"I ordered my staff to re-file every single report over the last three academic years and of course the year that I'm in now, just as an abundance of caution, to make sure that no particular case slipped through the cracks and to be quite clear that every case was sent to the commission on teacher credentialing," Superintendent John Deasy told KPCC on air today during his regular monthly radio talk.

Deasy, who appeared in the KPCC studio with a black ash mark on his forehead for Ash Wednesday, declined to speak with KPCC's education reporters. However, he was asked some of their questions on air.

KPCC first reported last Thursday that the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing had sent Deasy a letter that said the district was posing a "potential risk to student safety" by not providing a timely report on accused teachers. The commission can decide to investigate a teacher it is informed of and revoke or suspend their credential so that the teacher can't be hired by other districts.

The state's Commission on Teacher Credentialing suspended Berndt's credential on Jan. 31, the same day he was arrested and charged with 23 counts of lewd conduct on children. (Berndt pleaded not guilty to those charges Tuesday.)

But according to the state code of regulations and the education code, LAUSD should have informed the credentialing commission of Berndt's February 2011 suspension without pay by mid-March of 2011.

Deasy said Wednesday that the district has still not recieved the letter, but had contacted the commission and was sent a second letter informing them that the first was a form letter.

"It was this radio station that obtained the document before the district obtained the document," Deasy said. "I find that very curious and troublesome. We've yet to recieve it through channels at LAUSD. Nevertheless, the investigation found it was delayed in reporting, hence my investigation internally."

Deasy said Friday he was launching an internal investigation to look into the untimely notifications or lack of notifications to the commission. "I know they're [the Human Resources Department is] combing through email and checking with the commission itself," said district spokesman Thomas Waldman.

Earlier today, the Los Angeles Times reported that a substitute teacher for the district was investigated by police thrice for sexual misconduct with students. According to the story, the district never reported the accusations to the credentialing commission and the teacher was hired to work as a substitute at another school.

Deasy told KPCC today that this case took place years ago, before Deasy became the district's superintendent, and that the reporting mechanisms at the time were not what they are today.

"I would find it very hard to believe that situation could take place today in LAUSD," Deasy said.

This story has been updated.

Tami Abdollah can be reached via email and on Twitter (@latams).

 

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