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California state Republican lawmakers unveil plan to speed up teacher dismissals



California State Capitol in Sacramento
California State Capitol in Sacramento

California state Senate and Assembly Republicans unveiled legislation today to expedite the dismissal of educators who engage in criminal behavior in response to the flurry of reported sex-abuse cases in L.A. Unified schools over the last months.

The proposed reforms, which will be introduced as legislation this week, are based on a "Top Ten" recommended reforms list produced by L.A. Unified officials and a letter from Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, according to a release.

The legislators specifically refer to the case of former Miramonte Elementary School teacher Mark Berndt, arrested and charged with 23 lewd acts upon a child, and subsequent reports on sex-abuse throughout the district, as the impetus for their proposals to change the state Education Code.

"Public schools are supposed to be havens for safe learning, not a proving ground for sexual predators," said Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, of Diamond Bar, in a statement. "The recent arrest of two Miramonte Elementary teachers for lewd acts against their students shows that we must change the law to protect our kids. That’s why Republicans are standing with Mayor Villaraigosa and Los Angeles Unified to enact reforms to empower local districts and ensure that a Miramonte-like tragedy never happens again."

Proposed reforms:

The legislators announced their plan hours before the L.A. Unified school board will vote on two resolutions that aim to beef up the employee discipline process, one of which calls on the legislature to make changes to the state's Education Code on how it deals with credentialed employee dismissals.

The resolution is very similar to one approved by the board in 2009 that recommended changes to the state's Education Code, also co-sponsored by Galatzan, but no legislation was pursued at the time.

A UTLA spokeswoman could not be immediately reached for comment.

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