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California Bill Would Allow Faster Dismissal Of Teachers Accused Of Egregious Conduct

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SACRAMENTO – In May, Brianna Ruonavarra said her 9-year-old son caught his teacher looking at lewd images inside the classroom at Live Oak Elementary School.

After weeks on paid administrative leave, teacher Greg Dahlem resigned. Ruonavarra, however, wonders if he hadn’t left on his own, how much more of her taxpayer money would be used to pay Dahlem before the Lodi Unified School District finally finished investigating him.

“Besides the kids feeling uncomfortable, him being paid when he doesn’t even deserve to be at a school, doesn’t deserve to be a teacher,” said Ruonavarra. “It’s been months. Two months.”

California legislators unanimously passed Assembly Bill 215, also known as the teacher dismissal bill. It’s heading to the desk of Governor Jerry Brown. If it becomes law, school districts can dismissal a teacher accused of immoral or egregious conduct in just 30 days after giving the teacher written notice.

The California Teachers Association helped write the bill.

“This is really written for a small group of folks who we have to get out of the classroom,” said Lori Easterling, manager of legislative relations for CTA. “Just a handful as opposed to all the hardworking teachers we do have.”

Sacramento City Unified School District currently has one teacher under investigation on paid administrative leave. It’s a process that can take months and money.

“There are unique circumstances where investigations are inconclusive, where you’re still trying to gather information,” said Sacramento City Unified School District communication director Gabe Ross. “The process can be lengthy, but generally that’s not the common practice. Generally, it’s wrapped up quickly and the decision is made and the process moves forward.”

The bill also says school districts cannot expunge credible complaints from a teacher’s personnel file and any school employee who lies about another school employee could lose their teaching certification.

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