Investigating misconduct charges against Los Angeles teachers is complicated by a teachers’ union contract rule that purges allegations that don’t result in discipline from personnel files after four years, reports the Los Angeles Times.
The most explosive allegations involved former Miramonte Elementary School teacher Mark Berndt, who has pleaded not guilty to 23 counts of lewd conduct for allegedly photographing students blindfolded, gagged and being spoon-fed his semen. Several earlier investigations and complaints about his conduct — none of which ever resulted in criminal charges or discipline — were not in his record.
The contract states that after four years, “pre-disciplinary” documents filed about teachers are either destroyed or placed in an “expired file” at the campus. These can include an unproven allegation of serious misconduct, a warning or reprimand, a principal’s private notes about a potential problem or a memo that resulted from a meeting with a teacher over an issue.
Superintendent John Deasy has ordered school district staff to go back four years to look for teacher misconduct that should be reported to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
Deasy also wants principals to review all employee files — even the expired ones — going back decades, if necessary, to flag potential issues. Administrators are to alert law enforcement authorities of any past case that wasn’t reported. And if the response to a past allegation now appears questionable, principals are supposed to note that as well
However, much of the documentation has vanished. “If there are separate, expired files at a school, as leadership changes, the knowledge of those files is going to disappear,” Randy Delling, the principal at North Hollywood High, told the Times.