A California state senator said he plans to reintroduce a bill Monday that would make it easier to fire a teacher accused of sexually abusing a student. His statements came the day after a state audit on L.A. Unified's child abuse procedures found the lengthy dismissal process increased the district's likelihood of settling the allegations in exchange for resignations.
California state Sen. Alex Padilla of Pacoima authored the bill, SB1530, which was allowed to die in the California Assembly Education Committee in June. It was one of three bills introduced in that session in response to a spate of sexual misconduct cases in L.A. Unified.
"The State Auditor confirms that the dismissal process established in state law is inconsistent, too lengthy, too costly and delays the timely resolution of child abuse cases," Padilla said in a statement Friday. "While the audit was specific to Los Angeles Unified School District it is clear to me that this is an issue of statewide concern.”
He said he will narrowly tailor the new bill and seek input from both the California Teachers Assn. and United Teachers Los Angeles, which had rallied against SB 1530.
SB 1530 would have given school boards the last word in firing teachers accused of "serious and egregious misconduct" — defined as offenses involving drugs or sexual conduct or violence toward children.
The bill was motivated in part by the case of Miramonte Elementary School teacher Mark Berndt, who was charged with 23 counts of lewd conduct on children. School officials said the process can drag on for months; LAUSD ultimately paid him $40,000 to settle the case quickly and ensure his removal from the classroom.
UTLA President Warren Fletcher said Thursday that the state audit didn't show the need for legislative changes, but rather illustrated that L.A. Unified needs to follow existing state law and timelines. If the district did that, he said, the process would work as it should and protect students as well as teachers.