A bill that would make it easier to fire teachers accused of "serious and egregious misconduct" passed out of the California Senate Education Committee. Miramonte Elementary School teacher Mark Berndt (above in 2003), charged with 23 charges of lewd conduct on children, was cited as one example of a case this would have helped expedite.
A California Senate bill that will make it easier to dismiss a teacher accused of "serious and egregious misconduct" with students has cleared its first hurdle, passing out of the Education Committee with several new amendments.
SB1530, sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Alex Padilla of Pacoima, would give school boards the last word in firing teachers accused of "serious and egregious misconduct" — offenses of sex, drugs and violence against children — making what was decided by a three-person panel called the Commission on Professional Competence an "advisory" decision by an administrative law judge. Evidence more than four years old could be used in the investigation and during proceedings for such misconduct crimes.
The bill as originally written was strongly opposed by the California Teachers Association. Padilla said he worked with CTA officials and members of the Committee to come up with several amendments he proposed today. Those include creating a new charge of "serious and egregious misconduct" under which immediate suspension would be allowed.
Miramonte Elementary School is the center of a scandal where two teachers have been accused of engaging in lewd acts with students.
Early reports show at least one of two state Senate bills that aim to make it easier to dismiss a teacher accused of misconduct has cleared the first hurdle and will pass out of the Education Committee.
SB1530, sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Alex Padilla of Pacoima, has the necessary six votes to pass out. The bill would give school boards more authority in firing teachers. It would also make the decision of a three-person panel on the dismissal instead a decision by just the administrative law judge, and the ruling would be advisory. The bill would only apply to cases involving sex, violence or drug offenses involving children.
L.A. Unified Superintendent John Deasy testified in support of the bill and has said the state is "long overdue" for a revamp of its laws governing teacher dismissal. A California Teachers Assn. official spoke against it. CTA spokesman Mike Myslinski declined to comment until the final vote counts were in.
Protestors march near Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles, California February 6, 2012.
Three bills that deal with teacher misconduct will be discussed by the California Legislature's Senate and Assembly education committees Wednesday.
SB1059, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Bob Huff of Diamond Bar, would remove pensions and health benefits from teachers convicted of sexual abuse of a minor and prevent disciplinary records from being removed from personnel files. It would also require teachers be removed from the classroom if officials believe they are under investigation.
The bill matches resolutions on employee dismissal approved by the L.A. Unified school board in March, said Sabrina Lockhart, a spokeswoman for the Office of Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway. The board approved the resolutions, which call on legislators to make changes to the education code, after a spate of reported sexual misconduct cases earlier this year.
California State Capitol in Sacramento
Three bills in the California Legislature that aim to address problems with school suspension rates and discipline cleared an initial hurdle and passed out of committee today.
These include AB 2242, which seeks to reduce out-of-school suspensions for students under the category of "willful defiance," an often very subjective classification that includes behavior such as failing to bring materials to class, not paying attention or talking back. The bill would limit the use of such suspensions and instead have students sent to an in-school supervised suspension classroom.
"We’re not condoning any of these behaviors, what we’re saying is we have better strategies to hold students accountable, and what we know does not work is sending them home to an unsupervised vacation," said Laura Faer, education rights director for the nonprofit Public Counsel, which is sponsoring a number of bills on discipline. "What we do when we do that, we leave them subject to victimization on the streets or able to get in trouble with the law."
creative commons/prayitno's flickr
UCLA Royce Hall
A week late, but still worth checking out. Last Thursday was International Women's Day, and various sites paid homage by running pieces by female writers.
One essay was by Gardena High School senior Janeth Silva, who is a member of the Women's Leadership Club and the AB 540 Club. AB 540 is a California law that allows qualified undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities.
Silva says she is part of "a particularly vulnerable population in this dysfunctional education system because it is completely legal to discriminate against us."
A small excerpt of one encounter Silva had with a school counselor:
"Everything was going great until she asked me for my social security number and I informed her I didn’t have one. She would never again summon me in to her office or try to help me step on to that road to college she once had assured me I was destined for. I never imagined that discrimination could be such a painful mix of sadness, anger, and powerlessness. From one moment to the next, my legal status had somehow rendered all of my years in gifted programs, hard earned certificates, and other accomplishments non-existent."