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Measure passes to speed up probes of accused L.A. teachers

The Los Angeles Board of Education has approved a resolution aimed at more quickly establishing the guilt or innocence of teachers and other employees accused of serious misconduct.

The measure approved Tuesday directed Supt. John Deasy to bring on professional investigators, to set up timelines for inquiries and to notify employees about allegations against them as soon as possible.

“There is nothing more important than getting the most accurate, highest quality investigations of suspected physical or sexual abuse of a child," resolution author Tamar Galatzan said in a statement. “In the long run, not hiring professionally trained investigators will cost us money, put our children in jeopardy, and perpetuate a system that is often unfair to teachers trapped in the limbo of teacher jail.”

Her reference to teacher jail refers to the practice of pulling teachers from classrooms and ordering them to report instead to a district office with no students and nothing for them to do.

Teachers can remain in this limbo assignment almost indefinitely. Some of them don't know what they are accused of doing for months.

The resolution passed unanimously. Its support by board members allied with labor signaled that teacher union leaders consider the effort a promising step. At the same time, union president Warren Fletcher expressed concern that investigations emphasize quality, fairness and independence as well as speed.

The district was overwhelmed with abuse investigations -- and with employees pulled from work sites -- in the wake of the arrest of Miramonte Elementary teacher Mark Berndt for alleged sexual misconduct. Berndt has pleaded not guilty and awaits trial.

Deasy said the district has gradually improved its process for handing allegations and added that he had no objection to Galatzan's resolution. 

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Twitter: @howardblume | howard.blume@latimes.com

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