Schools chief Deasy: Teachers accused of abuse should lose pay
L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy has called for changes to laws that protect the rights of teachers accused of heinous acts, saying they should be subject to faster dismissal and the loss of pay, benefits and pensions.
Deasy made his comments on KNX-AM (1070) radio in response to reports by The Times that a former teacher charged with lewd conduct with nearly two dozen students receives lifetime health benefits from the L.A. Unified School District and a pension of nearly $4,000 a month from the state teachers’ retirement system.
The teacher, Mark Berndt, is suspected of spoon-feeding what is believed to be his semen to current and former students and taking pictures of the children blindfolded and gagged with tape. He was arrested on Monday.
The superintendent specifically criticized three steps of the legal process. First, an accused teacher is paid full salary while awaiting disposition of the case. Typically, that teacher is “housed” in a district office where there are no students or, in some cases, sent home.
Second, Deasy complained about teachers' right to appeal to an administrative panel that is outside of the school system’s control. That process can last for months. And this outside panel can order the school system to rehire the teacher. If that fails, the teacher can take the case into the court system.
Lastly, Deasy took on teachers’ right to post-employment benefits regardless of what acts they commit.
Berndt, 61, was still awaiting the hearing to appeal his firing when, four months after the school board voted for dismissal, he opted to resign. His decision to resign before he could be officially fired preserved lifetime health benefits he’d earned through decades with L.A. Unified. His state teachers pension was never at risk. His retirement took effect on July 1, 2011.
-- Howard Blume