Thursday, April 18, 2013

Fixing LAUSD’s Rubber Room With Hot Knives

Teachers Locked Down in LAUSD's Notorious "Rubber Room"

Los Angeles Superintendent John Deasy’s take all prisoners approach to teacher discipline in the wake of the Miramonte Elementary School molestation case last year (see here and here) has swelled the number of teachers in LAUSD’s rubber room (teacher jail) to over 300.

Today the school board will consider a proposal to speed up and “improve” investigations, ostensibly to speed up the removal of criminals and exoneration of innocents. The problem is that the only true innocents, in the eyes of Deasy, are the children. Deasy has repeatedly asserted that his primary goal is to protect the children (never mind if that means punishing or firing innocent teachers).

Under the resolution by board member Tamar Galatzan, employees would have to be told why they were being removed from their job (unless it would compromise a law-enforcement investigation). This leaves open the possibility that a teacher could be placed in the rubber room based on spurious accusations by discontent parents or students, and not be told why they were there. According to the Los Angeles Times, the resolution would also require that they be quickly advised about the expected length of the investigation and whether or not they would be paid in the interim.

There are several other problems with the resolution. If the LAUSD bureaucracy did not have time, expertise and willingness to complete its investigations promptly and competently before, why would they have this ability now? Additionally, speeding up the timeframe for an investigation runs the risk of weakening teachers’ due process rights. Though the goal is to protect children, it is important to remember that people get accused of things all the time which are untrue, including teachers. Speeding up the inquiries could limit teachers’ abilities to defend themselves against specious accusations or exaggerated punishments for minor infractions.

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