As was sure to happen, the sex-abuse scandal at Miramonte Elementary is turning into a battle between the powerful teacher's union and the bureaucratically stifling L.A. Unified School District.
Who's right and who's wrong shouldn't even matter at this point. Sheriff's investigators believe there might be as many as 25 additional victims of suspect and ex-Miramonte teacher Mark Berndt.
But the union, silent on the matter until Monday, is whining:
United Teachers Los Angeles is angry that Miramonte's entire staff has been removed in reaction to the scandal, in which Berndt was charged with 23 counts of lewd acts on children and instructor Martin Springer was charged with three such counts.
Superintendent John Deasy had said that staffers would be allowed to return, essentially, when the dust clears.
But UTLA today called that and other statements by Deasy “broken promises.”
According to a union statement:
Superintendent John Deasy — without the input of parents — took the unprecedented move this week to remove the entire school's staff. District officials initially indicated that the staff could return, once the investigation was completed. Now LAUSD says that Miramonte staff will NOT be allowed to return, no matter the outcome of the
UTLA contends that Miramonte's teachers “will never be allowed back.” Union President Warren Fletcher:
It's clear that LAUSD does not have a plan. They are making it up as they go along, and the kids are paying the price. LAUSD is making a tragic situation even worse and traumatizing the entire school unnecessarily. Parents and students want their teachers back.
But the district says that the plan all along was to keep the Miramonte staff off campus through the end of the current school year, replacing them with teachers on placement and rehiring lists.
LAUSD spokesman Tom Waldman told the Weekly:
The plan is that through the school year '11-'12 we will have the current arrangement in place and we'll see after that. UTLA says the replacement is permanent. The district has never said that.
Some parents were angered over the arrangement, bummed that teachers who had worked with their children for years vanished as the campus reopened today after a two-day closure in response to the scandal.
We think removing the staff was the least the LAUSD could do: We want to know how supervisors and fellow teachers didn't know any of this was allegedly going on under their noses.
While there are surely innocents among the Miramonte staff, there's more guilt to go around: It takes a village to support the kinds of allegations being made at the Florence-Firestone school.
So far, it's been all talk, no real action, on both sides of this. We're not distracted by the debate, however. We have our eyes on the prize. Heads need to roll.