Crenshaw High School’s longtime choir director, who was reassigned while under investigation by the Los Angeles Unified School District, returned to the classroom on Tuesday as an inquiry into possible misconduct continues.
Iris Stevenson, who leads Crenshaw’s award-winning choir, was removed from the school in December and reported to work at district offices — called “teacher jails” by the union — that house instructors who are facing allegations of misconduct.
Parents, students and community members last year rallied against her removal, defending her as an icon at the school. Under Stevenson’s direction, the school’s choir had thrived, winning competitions around the world.
Stevenson was reassigned soon after returning from a class trip to France and to Washington, D.C., where the choir performed at the White House for President Obama.
District officials would not comment on the specific allegations, citing privacy laws, but said the investigation is ongoing.
United Teachers Los Angeles, the teachers union, has vigorously opposed the way in which L.A. Unified handles instructors who face allegations of misconduct. The union contends that teachers are kept in these offices for far longer than necessary and that, in some cases, they are unjustly fired even after allegations are proved false, among other concerns.
The district previously had said that Stevenson was informed of the allegations. UTLA president Alex Caputo-Pearl, a former teacher at Crenshaw High School, said that she was not.
“She was never given any official notification about the allegations. There was speculation, but nothing concrete,” Caputo-Pearl said. “They throw people in there and essentially invite people to speculate, which can be incredibly damaging to an educator's reputation.”
Last year, before Stevenson’s removal from the classroom, the Los Angeles Board of Education approved a resolution that aimed to more quickly determine the guilt or innocence of teachers and other employees accused of misconduct.
The measure directed Supt. John Deasy to create a team of professional investigators, set timelines for inquiries and to notify employees about the allegations against them as soon as possible. The district has since established a team of investigators.
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