L.A. Unified Board of Education member Tamar Galatzan remembers a couple years ago when a teacher was pulled out of her son's school and nothing was said to her or other parents.
"When I went for drop-off in the morning or pick-up in the afternoon, people would approach me and say 'Do you know what happened to so and so? Why isn't he here?'" Galatzan said. "All of a sudden one day the teacher is gone. Nobody told us anything."
Galatzan has two sons who attend district schools and is the only board member with any children in the district. Because of this, she brings a relatively unique perspective to her support of two resolutions that respond to recent reports of teacher misconduct in the district.
"You really see first hand how it affects the whole school community, and what happens when there’s no information out. The rumor mill just takes over...Principals and district staff are [afraid] to say anything because they don't want to say too much and don't really know what they can say and what they can't."
In addition to being a board member and mother, Galatzan is also a prosecutor with the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office. The professional and personal ties to the community have given her extra insight over the last months as more allegations against teachers have come to light.
"The prosecutor in me believes in the 'innocent until proven guilty' and...the danger of false allegations and how that can really wreck not just someone's career, but their whole life, and I'm very sensitive to that," Galatzan said. "But also, as a parent, my children's safety is paramount and I want to make sure that they're safe at school."
One of the two resolutions that the board will take up Tuesday specifically deals with how and when parents are notified by the district about an accused teacher. It also aims to create a centralized, computerized and confidential database for all reports on employees.
The resolutions build on previous efforts in 2008 and 2009 by Galatzan to change how the district deal with the teacher discipline process.
Galatzan said the issue of notification is complex and can be both technical and emotional, especially as a parent.
"I do understand the law and the privacy and the First Amendment issues, all sorts of things, and I respect that," Galatzan said. "But also, as a parent, I want to be fully informed about everything that's going on that might affect my children. It's an almost impossible balance, and that's what we're really trying to do here. There's no hard and fast rule, and I think that's the way the district has dealt with it. But we need to tighten our processes so things aren't falling between the cracks...we need to go further."