SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Fallout from recent cases of teachers behaving criminally in the classroom has inspired a bill that would cut through the red tape to get rid of them.
Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) says it could take years to dismiss some of these teachers, putting children at risk in the classroom. So he’s trying to speed up that dismissal process. But the teachers union is fighting it.
“Teachers were allowed to stay in the classroom and do harm to students,” the senator said.
Padilla points to the scandal at Miramonte Elementary that outraged parents and made national headlines. A 61-year-old teacher was charged with photographing third graders with semen-filled spoons in their mouths.
After a second teacher was arrested at the same school and the Los Angeles district was criticized for failing to take swift action in dozens of misconduct cases, Padilla started pushing for a new law.
“When there’s charges of crimes involving sex, drug use or violence against children, then the process ought to be expedited. Absolutely,” he said.
But members of the California Teachers Union are fighting the senator’s bill. They say laws are already in place to protect students and the focus should be on enforcement. The teachers union is also criticizing the senator because in his effort to speed up the dismissal process, his new law won’t include a teacher representative on the panel that would review abuse reports.
“No teacher in a classroom anywhere wants a bad teacher or a criminal in a classroom. Ever. Ever,” Elk Grove teacher Eleanor Kuechler-Vanacker said.
“We want to make sure that when determinations are made, when allegations are looked into, we have people looking into those allegations who know the profession and who know what good conduct is, and what good practice is,” said Warren Fletcher of United Teachers Los Angeles.
But Padilla says his bill focuses on specific criminal activity that doesn’t require teacher representation.
“My bill is specific to charges of drug use, sex abuse, violence against children,” he said. “I don’t think you need that teacher perspective to interpret that otherwise very clear law. “
Padilla is also trying to save tax dollars. If a teacher is accused of one of these crimes, his or her pay would be withheld immediately. They will not be put on paid leave as they are now. If they’re cleared of the crime, their pay would be reimbursed.
The new law would also allow old evidence to be used in investigations. Currently teachers’ files are purged after four years if charges can’t be proven.