LA union contract hinders abuse investigation

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.

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  1. SuperSub says:

    Funny, I always thought there were at least two parties in a contract.

  2. You’d think so but a school board isn’t always a separate entity from the union with which it’s negotiating a contract.

    Politics ensures that the educational mission of public education is compromised by political considerations like whether a board member will have to run against a union-sponsored candidate. Or a union member.

  3. So let me get this straight, a school district has 4 years to prove a teacher unworthy and its the union’s fault they don’t?

    As for Mark Bendt, I blame the DA who refused to take the case to a grand jury back long ago when the allegations were made. Probably afraid of messing up his win/loss record.

    • Not fault, responsibility.

      That’s one of the reasons unions can extract dues, because of the promise of uncritical support.

      A union president who runs under the banner of “only if you’re not guilty” isn’t going to a union president for very long. Then there are the union members who sit on school boards. But you’d blame Santa Claus if you thought it would prevent our secular saints from having to stand up to the same scrutiny as “ordinary” people.

  4. Funny to see people come down on the side of child molesters.

    • Mark Roulo says:

      If you can’t close out the investigation in four years, it is unreasonable to presume guilt.