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L.A. teachers' contracts hinder abuse investigations

February 29, 2012 |  7:57 am

John Deasy
Efforts by the L.A. Unified School District to identify teachers suspected of misconduct has been complicated by a little-known clause in the teachers' contracts that limits how long allegations can remain in a teacher's file.

Under the contract, alleged misconduct that does not result in discipline is removed from personnel files after four years. The provision dates to the early 1990s when the L.A. Unified School District agreed to it in exchange for teachers taking a 10% pay cut.

The policy has limited L.A. Unified's ability to deal with misconduct allegations against teachers and weed out potential problem instructors. The most explosive allegations involved former Miramonte Elementary School teacher Mark Berndt, who has pleaded not guilty to 23 counts of lewd conduct for allegedly photographing students blindfolded, gagged and being spoon-fed his semen.

Several earlier investigations and complaints about his conduct — none of which ever resulted in criminal charges or discipline — were not in his record.

The contract states that after four years, "pre-disciplinary" documents filed about teachers are either destroyed or placed in an "expired file" at the campus.

These can include an unproven allegation of serious misconduct, a warning or reprimand, a principal's private notes about a potential problem or a memo that resulted from a meeting with a teacher over an issue.

The contract does not specify what should happen to "expired" files over time, but they have remained on campus even when a teacher moves to another school.


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