After decades of lax treatment of teachers who molest children or commit other serious crimes, the Los Angeles School Board is finally ready to take action — well, to think about taking action.
What the school board did Tuesday night was to water down a proposal to move quickly to get rid of criminal teachers and then approve forming a task force headed by Occidental College President Ted Mitchell to study possible changes in state laws and presumably union contracts.
Even then, the mealy-mouthed action barely passed on a 4-3 vote.
I know It’s hard to believe that dozens of cases of molestation by teachers have been exposed over the years, cases in which district officials with a wink and a nod looked the other way, transferred the offender or shifter them to a desk job where they sat around doing nothing for ages.
Jason Song in the Times produced a terrific series of articles last month entitled “Failure Gets a Pass” that told the story of the roughly 160 teachers and other LAUSD employees who are paid to do nothing — people whose competence is questioned or have run afoul of the law. They are paid about $10 million a year.
One article specifically dealt with molesters, citing the case of teacher’s aide Ricardo Guevara, who is now serving 15 years in prison and whose sexual abuse of three young adolescent girls led a jury to award $1.6 million in damages against LAUSD.
“But there was something the jury — and the public — was never told:
This was the third set of accusations that Guevara had molested
students,” Song wrote. “Twice before, when law enforcement officials had decided they
lacked the evidence to win a criminal conviction, L.A. Unified
officials had quietly put him back in the classroom.”
LAUSD policy and state law require protecting students first and foremost yet the practice is that “the district has erred on the side of protecting its staff,” the Times said.
The Guevara case is hardly an isolated example.
Yet, School Board President Marlene Canter has twice had to withdraw proposals to take actively lobby for legislation to be able to fire teachers who shouldn’t be within 1,000 feet of a classroom but in the end had to settle for nothing more than a study committee looking only at teachers accused or egregious or immoral acts.
“It’s very difficult to bring up the topic of dismissal without people feeling very protective,” Canter said.
Think about it: If unions and school board members are opposed to firing incompetent teachers, criminal teachers, molester teachers, is it any wonder LAUSD has failed for three decades to serve parents and students?
Like City Hall, LAUSD is a jobs program, not a service program. The people who pay the bills count for nothing. What matters is the people who get the paychecks.