News and Views from California's 43rd Assembly District.
Friday, June 21, 2013
OpEd: Public Should Know When School Employees Have History of Abuse
The opinion editorial below appeared in this week's Crescenta Valley Weekly. I thought I'd share it with those you outside of the Crescenta Valley.
Public Should Know When School Employees Have History of Abuse
by Assemblyman Mike Gatto
In February, a major scandal rocked the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) when teachers at Telfair Elementary in Pacoima and Miramonte Elementary in South L.A. were discovered engaging in long-time patterns of abuse and misconduct. Despite the allegations that teachers were sexually abusing students, the district failed to take action, prompting the Joint Legislative Audit Committee and the State Auditor to investigate how LAUSD handled allegations of abuse against students.
The report revealed a glaring flaw in school safety procedures – whereas teachers lose their ability to teach if they abuse a child, there are no similar mechanisms for the nearly 300,000 non-teaching school employees, such as janitors, teacher’s aides, bus drivers, office assistants, or groundskeepers.
While accusations of misconduct and disciplinary action against such employees are rare, these non-teaching staff are an everyday part of the education system and often have unsupervised access to students. Indeed, the recent arrest of a teacher’s aide in Lawndale who molested a student in full view of security cameras demonstrates that abuse by school employees can happen and should be taken seriously.
Current laws only require immediate reporting of child-abuse allegations against certified teachers, not classified employees or other personnel who do not maintain the same credentials as teachers. There is also no centralized mechanism to share information about the circumstances under which a classified employee leaves one school district to find employment in another district. Without such a system, a classified employee that is fired, resigns or settles during the course of a child-abuse investigation can easily return to work in another school district.
That’s why I introduced AB 349, which creates a landmark, statewide, information system to help prevent repeat offenders from retaining employment at a different school. This common-sense legislation requires school administrators to report to the Dept. of Education whenever a school employee is dismissed, resigns, is suspended, retires or fired as a result of a child-abuse allegation or while an investigation of alleged abuse is pending.
Protecting our children from predators while preserving the rights of individuals to be presumed innocent until proven guilty is a delicate balancing act. AB 349 maintains this balance with a simple reporting system that will provide hiring administrators the information they need to keep children safe.
Mike Gatto is a father and the chairman of the Assembly Committee on Appropriations. He represents the cities of Burbank, Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, the communities of La Crescenta and Montrose, and the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Los Feliz, Silver Lake, Atwater Village, and portions of the Hollywood Hills and East Hollywood. Email Mike at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (818) 558-3043.