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LAUSD board orders Supt. Cortines to analyze misconduct incidents

LAUSD board orders superintendent to analyze past misconduct incidents in the district

In the wake of the Miramonte Elementary School child abuse scandal, the Los Angeles school district will analyze past incidents of misconduct to determine how to better safeguard students in the future.

The Board of Education on Tuesday approved the proposal, brought by board member Monica Ratliff, directing Supt. Ramon Cortines to analyze the circumstances of previous misconduct events — including the number of adults present during the alleged misconduct, the work history and previous complaints against the accused employee, and when and where such incidents occurred.

Ratliff initially had called for a study on the feasibility of staffing all classrooms with two adults while children are present. That idea, however, was not included in the measure that the board approved.

The move is the latest in a series of board actions following the arrest of a Miramonte Elementary School teacher for sexual misconduct in 2012 that led to changes in state law and district policies. Teacher Mark Berndt pleaded no contest last year to 23 charges of lewd conduct, including feeding children his semen in what he called a tasting game. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

The L.A. Unified School District last month agreed to pay more than $139 million to settle claims related to the case, drawing to a close the lengthy case. L.A. Unified already has paid about $30 million in claims to the families of 65 Miramonte students.

Another proposal by Ratliff would have directed the superintendent to provide a report to the board detailing the district's annual expenses over the last five years for the costs of litigation, awards, settlements and other costs related to criminal actions at district schools. It would have required that the report project the costs of additional safety resources on district campuses — including more cameras, police officers and school safety officers.

But Ratliff decided to pull that measure after speakers strongly opposed additional police officers on campuses.

United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl said students would be better served by finding ways to fund additional counselors and mental health professionals and by lowering class sizes.

"That's the report that we need generate — not something that will increase policing," he said.

Board member George McKenna signaled that he would not support the measure.

"I would not be in favor of expanding the role of police in making our schools safe," he said.

There was no discussion of the portion of the resolution that would have required an accounting of legal expenses related to recent criminal actions.

Also Tuesday, the board unanimously approved more than $11 million in additional funds to address problems caused by a new and faulty student records system.

The system caused problems districtwide this fall, with thousands of students unable to enroll in classes required for graduation or college. Teachers were unable to record attendance, and grade information was lost or corrupted.

"We are starting to see evidence that the system is stabilizing," Cortines said at the board meeting Tuesday. "We are looking at the issues that plague our schools, counselors, teachers and administration. We aren't saying they don't exist, but we are trying to resolve them."

A staff report said the system continues to have performance issues and new bugs arise on a daily basis. "The system, as it stands today, does not meet the needs of our schools," the report said.

The district has spent more than $130 million trying to develop a fully functional student records system, known as My Integrated Student Information System, or MISIS.

In other action, the board approved spending about $23.2 million for additional computers to use for students to take new state standardized tests.

The purchases are expected to include 21,665 iPads ($552 each) and separate keyboards ($29 each) as well as 7,770 Chromebooks ($305 each). The money also will cover some staffing and other costs.

The district won't purchase the new devices under a controversial, recently suspended contract for iPads that is now the subject of an FBI probe. Instead, the district will use an older, already available contract with Apple for the iPads. Chromebook contracts were negotiated recently under a separate process.

stephen.ceasar@latimes.com

Twitter: @sjceasar

Times staff writer Howard Blume contributed to this report.

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