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LA Unified principals send over 8,000 files of possible unreported misconduct

Miramonte Elementary School
Miramonte Elementary School
Grant Slater/KPCC

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So far, L.A. Unified officials have received about 8,000 files from school principals after they were ordered to send in any unreported misconduct files from over the last 40 years.

LAUSD spokesman Thomas Waldman said not all of the files that have been sent in are necessarily "unreported misconduct," although that is what Superintendent John Deasy directed principals to send in and "that is the intent of the process."

"Perhaps other kinds of files were mistakenly included," Waldman said. "We just don't know yet."

In February, Deasy ordered principals at 1,048 schools to submit all such files by May 30. But that deadline has been extended to June 22, Waldman said.

Some principals have had trouble easily locating files, which may have been moved over years, or faced technical glitches trying to send them in, said Judith Perez, president of the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles. The union had received about a dozen calls from principals who weren't able to finish in time.

"People came in on weekends, evenings to get it done," Perez said. "So I'm pleased to hear the deadline was extended."

Perez said many principals were fearful of overlooking a file and so it is likely they sent in more than is necessary to ensure nothing was left out. 

It's not clear what LAUSD will do with the thousands of files it receives. According to state law, evidence beyond four years cannot be included in misconduct cases, though there are legislative efforts to change that.

Waldman said the district will be going through the files and determining how to proceed with them.

"If the case is from 1973 and there was a certain law then and the law changes, it's going to be a fascinating legal question," Waldman said. "Who knows. I think that's something we've got to pursue."

A spokeswoman for United Teachers Los Angeles did not provide comment.

L.A. Unified has sent 604 cases of alleged teacher misconduct from the past four years to the state’s teacher credentialing agency for possible investigation after a separate internal investigation was ordered in February to ensure that all reported cases were properly filed.

Deasy ordered the investigations into the files after it was discovered the district broke state law when it waited a year before notifying the state that it had fired Miramonte Elementary School teacher Mark Berndt. Berndt is charged with committing 23 lewd acts on children. (He was in court today and will return to court Aug. 16 to set a date for his preliminary hearing.)

Principals were initially ordered to send any unreported misconduct files without a time limitation, but Deasy narrowed that to 40 years. 

"I don't know why they're going that far back, I don't know what they can do, there's a statute of limitations for the prosecution of such cases, child abuse..." Perez said. "In my own opinion, I believe that 40 years is somewhat excessive. The district is going to be dealing with a lot of dead people, long gone people."

Perez said principals are working hard to comply fully with the Deasy's directive to protect children, but "there are no additional resources given to accomplish this, so you know, it's rough."

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