Miramonte teachers to file grievances after removal from school
This post has been updated. See the note below for details.
The 85 Miramonte Elementary School teachers who were removed from their classrooms as part of the investigation into the school's sex-abuse scandal will be filing grievances against the Los Angeles Unified School District, union officials said.
The teachers were supposed to report to an empty, unopened high school Thursday morning, but instead, United Teachers Los Angeles president Warren Fletcher said, they were at union headquarters preparing their grievances.
Fletcher said the 85 teachers are also victims in the sex-abuse scandal. After the arrest of Miramonte teachers Mark Berndt and Martin Springer on charges of lewd conduct, district officials removed the entire staff from the school and brought in an all-new slate of teachers.
"We resent it when the district does so, and we resent it when this community and these parents have their children's education deeply disrupted for no other purpose than to deflect criticism from an administration that failed to do its job," Fletcher said.
He said the Miramonte teachers are being forced to file the grievances "only because we are in a situation where members of the staff are being stigmatized."
Fletcher said district officials had promised that the transfers were temporary and that there would be no reflection on the teachers' permanent record. But he said their move from Miramonte to the empty Augustus Hawkins High School is being processed as an "administrative transfer," which is the same language used in disciplinary matters.
[Updated, 12:45 p.m. Feb. 9: Supt. John Deasy issued a statement reacting to the teachers union's assertions. He said the district has a plan and that teachers were told they can return to Miramonte once investigations are complete and if no disqualifying information emerges about a particular instructor.
"It is unfortunate that UTLA is apparently not a partner in our plan to support students and simultaneously help our staff. The notion that promises were broken to adults is additionally not true. However, the fact that sacred promises and trusts to our youth at this school were broken is true," the statement said.]
Recent days have very emotional for the teachers, many of whom are deeply rooted at the school, Fletcher said.
"When teachers were told that they were being transferred, dozens of teachers were in tears," he said. "They are part of the fabric of this community."
As Fletcher held a news conference, Yvonne Soto, the mother of a first-grade student in Miramonte's special-education program, quietly wept as she took in the scene at the school Thursday morning.
"Its horrible," she said to a reporter. "So many in this community came to this country for their kids' education. They put a lot of trust in the school."
One father expressed concern about how all the commotion would affect his children in class.
"This is more trauma for the kids," he said. "Tests are coming soon. How do you think they're going to do?"
-- Howard Blume, Samuel Allen and Angel Jennings at Miramonte Elementary School
Photo: UTLA President Warren Fletcher holds a news conference in front of Miramonte Elementary in South Los Angeles on Thursday. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times