LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy, who oversees nearly 670,000 campuses as head of the nation's second largest school district, got some more great press today from the Los Angeles Times.
Despite the overall horrificness of the Miramonte sex scandal (turned districtwide sex scandal) of 2012, the Times has been patting Deasy on the back for taking extreme measures like replacing the entire staff at Miramonte and, just last week…
… ordering the district to send every last accusation of teacher misconduct in its file cabinets to the California State Commission on Teacher Credentialing. And officials have already sent in 65 complaints, according to KPCC.
However, those records only go back four years. After that, because of a sketchy clause in the United Teachers Los Angeles union contract, the Times reports that any unproven accusations are sent back to teacher's individual campuses and locked up in an “expired file.”
That's where Deasy gets more great press today — by demanding that the teachers union wipe this molester-protecting clause from its contract. (Or else more sex monsters may be allowed to roam free amongst our children!)
Yet at the same time, he's demanding that principals at all the district's schools go through all teacher-related files they can find on campus. They have 60 days to turn over any evidence of past misconduct — not just sexual.
The principals union was quick to fight back. Judith Perez, president of Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, wrote in an angry letter to Deasy that mixed messages from district officials over the years would make this ambitious task nearly impossible. We've bolded the most absurd bits:
Procedures for Site Documents and Working Folders: The District has never established clear procedures or guidelines for what goes into site files or working folders. Furthermore, District procedures regarding reporting of suspected child abuse cases have changed over the years. Administrators have been told, for example, never to place such documents in an individual's site personnel file. During some years, they were told never to keep copies of suspected child abuse forms at the site because of confidentiality. However, during other years, administrators were told to keep them, but file them separately in a locked drawer. Some years they were told to send copies to a District operations coordinator; other years they were told to send them to the District's General Counsel's Office; other years they were told to send them to the District's Child Abuse Office (which was eliminated years ago).
Access and Time Frame: There is no indication in your directive as to the number of years the review of former employees' files should extend. Should principals go back three years, five years, ten years? As you are aware, most of our schools are over fifty years old. In addition, due to lack of space, inactive files may be kept at the school in attics, basements or storerooms. Some may have been taken home or damaged during construction, severe weather or by rodents. An incoming principal may have no idea where old files are kept and, in fact, may have never seen them. The reduction of clerical norms and the resulting turnover of classified staff coupled with storage space issues have exacerbated this problem over time.
Perez tells the Weekly that Deasy responded to some of her concerns in a letter yesterday, but there are still huge gray areas.
For instance, how far back should they be looking? Some schools have been around for as long as 100 years. And she says misconduct complaints can be as minuscule as a parent calling the front office and saying, “My child is upset because his teacher yelled at him,” and an administrator scribbling it down.
She says turning a campus upside down for every last piece of paper in 60 days is a tall order. Especially considering that once they've located any complaints, Deasy has ordered the principals to scan them (“Schools don't have scanners,” says Perez), PDF them and send them to a particular website.
Sure, this is another union complaining about its members having to do more work than they signed up for. But it sounds as if principals, who have much better things to do, are being punished for LAUSD's terrible history of record-keeping.
And under teachers' cushy contracts, will all this looting even make a difference?
Tom Waldman, LAUSD spokesman, says he has no idea what the Commission on Teacher Credentialing or the district will do with this evidence, seeing as “the 'expired files' cannot be used for dismissal or suspension.” He agrees that everything is very up-in-the-air right now.
Looks like Deasy's big noble demand for accountability might be more a passing of the buck.