L.A. to remove all teachers from school amid sex investigation
L.A. school officials are hoping their decision to temporarily replace the entire staff of an elementary school where two teachers have been accused of lewd acts against students will help quell growing anger by parents.
Los Angeles Unified School District Supt. John Deasy announced the changes at a parents meeting Monday night. The meeting was tense at times, with some parents chanting "cover-up" and accusing the school system of failing to protect their children.
Some parents said they were alarmed by reports that students had complained about one of the accused teachers several times in the last two decades.
"My trust level is at zero," Cassini Quarles, the mother of a third-grader, said outside the meeting, which was held at a nearby high school.
"I cannot have another student tell me he is afraid," Deasy told parents at the meeting.
When pressed about his personal reaction to the case, Deasy said he was disgusted by the allegations, and that his focus now was on trying to figure out how a "culture of silence" could have existed at Miramonte "where someone could have known something and then chose not to act."
"How is it conceivably possible that this could take place ... and [administrators] didn't know or say anything is what I'm trying to understand," he said. "And of course, I recognize that I'm trying to do it from a very far distance."
The staffing shake-up marks a bid to rebuild quickly eroding community confidence as detectives and school officials continue their investigations. More than a quarter of the students enrolled at Miramonte were kept home by their parents Monday.
But Monday night, some parents applauded the removal of the school's staff as a good first step. Officials stressed that no other educators at the school are under suspicion, but they said a bold act was needed to help remove the cloud over Miramonte.
The school has 150 teachers and administrators and about 1,500 students. The move could be temporary -- many, maybe all, of the current staff will be returned to the school eventually, officials said. In the interim, their places will be filled by teachers and other workers already on a rehiring list.
The Miramonte staff will continue to be paid and for the time being will move to a nearby campus under construction, officials said. Miramonte will be closed for the next two days during the transition.
Officials plan to have the new teachers and administrators in place by Thursday. When students return, each will be interviewed by the district, and a psychiatric social worker will be present in every classroom, Deasy said.
-- Howard Blume, Sam Allen, Stephen Ceasar and Angel Jennings
Photo: LAPD officers stand guard Monday at Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times