Krista Kennell/AFP/Getty Images
L.A. Unified Superintendent John Deasy speaks during a press conference at South Region High School #2 in Los Angeles, California Feb. 6, 2012. Deasy earlier informed parents at a community meeting that the district is replacing the entire staff of Miramonte Elementary School in the wake of the arrests last week of two teachers on lewd conduct charges.
“The district is making a tragic situation worse,” said United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) union president Warren Fletcher after Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) officials announced that they were replacing the entire staff of Miramonte Elementary School following the arrest of two Miramonte teachers.
Fletcher asserts that school district officials have not determined a long-term plan, are “making it up as they go along,” and are disrupting student education in the process. The removal of the school’s entire staff was reported to be only temporary, but Fletcher says that he was informed that teachers will not be returning to Miramonte.
LAUSD Superintendant John Deasy calls that assertion untrue and maintains that teachers absolved of wrongdoing will be reinstated to Miramonte after pending investigations are completed. “Further, the ridiculous claim that LAUSD does not have a plan is, of course, also not true,” Deasy said in a press statement released today.
"We didn't plan for multiple allegations," Deasy said, but that once more information came to light the district realized a complete investigation was needed. "Not only is there a plan, it's being well done and executed. I'm not interested if he agrees or doesn't agree with it."
When asked by KPCC to respond to UTLA's assertions, Deasy said, "I am not going to respond to anything in terms of a situation where clearly the statements made this morning were patently and factually inaccurate" and that it was "beneath by dignity to reply about that."
Deasy told KPCC that the union did have clarity yesterday afternoon about the plan, which hadn't changed. "I gave it to them personally," Deasy said. Deasy said that UTLA was right that promises had been broken, but that "they were broken to students. They were not broken to adults." Deasy said that the union's release goes against an effort to restore normalcy to Miramonte.
Miramonte educators will reportedly continue to be paid, but will be reassigned to another school while investigations are underway. Fletcher told KPCC that UTLA was informed of the plan to move Miramonte teachers an hour and a half before the teachers were informed, and that they told the superintendent and the district at the the time that it "was not a wise step."
"Those teachers would likely face stigma for having that happen," Fletcher said.
Fletcher said that he was told Wednesday that teachers were being permanently transferred away from Miramonte, and that the handful of teachers who were also parents of Miramonte students would be "barred from entering that campus as parents."
He added that he's happy that "the district has reverted to the position it had on Monday," though he said that moving the teachers was still an overreaction and that the district was using a hatchet when it should be using a scalpel.
Fletcher criticized what he labeled as "loose statements" made by district officials, including the superintendent, regarding a "culture of silence" at the school and teachers potentially knowing of abuse but saying nothing, which would be illegal in the state of California.
Fletcher said it's important to hold people to account if they violate the law, but "we don't in the newspapers make allegations that smear an entire faculty prior to the investigation." Fletcher said the situation arose "because of a failure of supervision" by the district. Fletcher said the district was shifting the duty of monitoring faculty from administration to teachers.
"One of things we're trying to determine is how parents and students didn't come forward over all of these years," Deasy told KPCC. "Was it that didn't allow or encourage — because if we see the alleged volume of photographs, there's hundreds — how could that not have come forward?"
Deasy said that he visited Miramonte today and that "The school is operating beautifully."
According to Deasy, the district knew an investigation was going on over the past year, but did not know what was being investigated, "what was in the photographs, what was on the cookies."
"To make a statement that this was something LAUSD did because it wants to shift away from its responsibilities is ludicrous, on its face," Deasy said.
How well is the LAUSD handling the situation at Miramonte Elementary School? How reasonable was it for the school district to completely replace the entire school staff, even temporarily? How responsible is the LAUSD for crimes committed by employees?
Warren Fletcher, UTLA President
John Deasy, LAUSD Superintendent
This story has been updated.