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L.A. schools chief 'horrified' at handling of teacher abuse cases

February 23, 2012 |  7:09 am

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/.a/6a00d8341c630a53ef0168e7d08bb4970c-640wi

Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy said he was "horrified" by the way the school district has handled past allegations of teacher abuse against students and called on major changes on how such  allegations are handled.

He said the district will report all teachers accused of misconduct to the state credentialing commission in an effort to keep those who pose a risk to students out of the classroom.

The sweeping action covers hundreds of teachers in the nation's second-largest school district who have been investigated by school officials or police for alleged misconduct ranging from sexual abuse to excessive absenteeism.

FULL COVERAGE: Teacher sex-abuse investigation

Deasy said Wednesday that he has ordered staff to scour personnel files going back four years and to submit all discipline cases to the state. He hopes to uncover any cases that were not previously reported.

Deasy announced the major step a day after The Times reported that a substitute teacher was able to get a job in the Inglewood school system after he resigned from L.A. Unified in 2007 in the wake of three sexual-abuse investigations. The Los Angeles district has no evidence that it informed the credentialing commission about those investigations. The teacher, George Hernandez, was later accused of sexually assaulting an Inglewood student.

TABLE: Schools where George Hernandez worked

"I'm horrified," Deasy said of recent revelations about the handling of past abuse allegations. "And the rest of my comments can't be printed in the language that the L.A. Times uses. I don't think I'm overreacting."

The effort could trigger new investigations of some instructors by the credentialing commission. Filing the records with the commission is important because school districts rely on the agency to flag problem teachers who apply for jobs in new districts.

Besides the Hernandez case in 2007, the district acknowledged that it did not immediately file misconduct records with the state involving Mark Berndt, a former Miramonte Elementary teacher charged with 23 counts of lewd conduct against students. He pleaded not guilty on Tuesday.

L.A. Unified should have filed a report on Berndt within 30 days after the Board of Education voted to fire him in February 2011. Instead, the district waited until after Berndt's arrest last month to do so. Berndt did not attempt to work elsewhere.

Deasy said that he believes the district has not intentionally held back any reports but that he wants to make sure no case has "slipped through the cracks."

School districts in California are required to report teachers to the State Commission on Teacher Credentialing when they leave or change jobs as a result of allegations against them. Districts also have the option of reporting any serious concerns about a teacher to the commission.

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-- Howard Blume

Photo: John Deasy. Credit: L.A. Times

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