Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday signed long-debated legislation aimed at speeding the dismissal of public school teachers for egregious misconduct. The bill was introduced in reaction to a 2012 sex abuse case at Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles.
Teacher Mark Berndt was arrested in 2012 and charged with 23 counts of lewd conduct, but the Los Angeles Unified School District said problems in the firing process were responsible for the district having to pay $40,000 to the teacher to drop an appeal of his firing.
Under current rules, appeals of firings can take more than a year. But with the new law, a teacher accused of the most egregious misconduct, including sex abuse, attempted murder and drug crimes, would be given 30 days after being fired to seek an independent hearing, which would then have to start in 60 days.
The hearing would be overseen by an administrative law judge, not a three-person panel that includes teachers, and the decision is binding.
The bill, AB 215, was introduced by Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo) and was supported by the California Teachers Assn. The Assn. of California School Administrators and Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy opposed the measure.
The administrators’ group worried the tight deadlines could create obstacles to firing teachers and the definition of egregious conduct was too narrow, excluding crimes including armed robbery and aggrevated assault, according to Naj Alikahn, a spokesman for the association.