When teachers are accused of misconduct, sometimes we’re outright fired or placed in “rubber rooms,” a.k.a. teacher jail. According to LA Unifed School District policy (Bulletin-5168.0), if no impropriety is discovered, we’re supposed to return to our assignment within 120 days. Yet teachers routinely languish away in rubber rooms for years while the District places blame for this exile on the time it takes to conduct police investigations.
In fact, not only has it been longer than 120 days for the 85 teachers removed from Miramonte Elementary in February—not only have they not yet been allowed to return—they were never suspected of any wrongdoing. Well, what happens when those who work at LAUSD’s central offices are suspected of misconduct? Does a different standard apply?
Recently, there was news of a sexual harassment settlement involving former Superintendent Ramon Cortines. The District hired an outside PR firm and lawyer to handle this matter (even though they’ve supposedly made every last budget cut possible), and it became a debacle. They announced that the alleged victim would receive $200,000 plus lifetime benefits worth about another $250,000. The only problem: The alleged victim’s lawyer said his client did not consent to the agreement, and that their understanding was that the lifetime benefits were to be valued at $300,000. How could the District have fumbled such a sensitive and important matter?
Our first priority is to ensure the safety of children and community members. If those who work either directly or indirectly with children are suspected of any actions that could cause us to question their professional competence, these individuals should immediately be placed in a location away from children (commonly referred to as a rubber room), pending the outcome of a fair and thorough investigation. Once that investigation is complete (however many decades the District may drag its feet), those individuals should be allowed to return to their positions. So who is to be held accountable for this public relations blowup regarding the former superintendent?
Should Cerell Associates, the crisis management firm the District hired, be placed in a rubber room, pending the outcome of an investigation? How about the undisclosed subcontractor of Cerell Associates (we don’t know who it is because the contract was less than $250,000 and didn’t need to be publicly disclosed)? The General Counsel? The District has 23 private foundation-funded positions totaling $3 million per year. Ten people work in the media office. Should all these individuals be placed in a rubber room? Considering the superintendent oversees the entire District, should he be placed in a rubber room?
There’s a second factor at work: The naming of the Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts. It’s not entirely clear if the School Board followed proper procedures in the naming of this school. If proper procedures were followed, and it’s determined that his name should be on the school, that’s fine, but if the bulletin regarding the naming of a school was violated, those who led the charge (in this case, Board President Monica Garcia) should be held accountable. Should Monica Garcia be placed in a rubber room?
To save money, there’s plenty of space for all these folks at the yet-to-be-opened Augustus Hawkins High School, the same location where all of the Miramonte teachers who were removed in February still report. In order to ensure the safety of children and community members, Superintendent Deasy, Board President Monica Garcia, Cerell Associates, the General Counsel, media staff, and all the outside consultants should immediately report to Hawkins, pending the outcome of a fair and thorough investigation, no matter how many days, months, or years the investigation may take.
It is very troubling that the District has not acted swiftly to ensure that the school was named properly and to investigate how the handling of the settlement involving former Superintendent Cortines was bungled in such a reckless, haphazard manner.
There appears to be a culture of silence at Beaudry.