EDUCATION POLITICS-One fundamental principal of any honest legal system is that the parties to a dispute are not allowed to call all the shots on what is relevant and what is not in investigating and fairly resolving the dispute. If this were allowed, the accusing party's own actions or interests in arriving at a predetermined unfair result would never be scrutinized by a truly neutral party.
And yet, that is precisely what has now gone on for years at the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), without any outside governmental intervention, in a process where thousands of teachers have been removed from their jobs, based on completely fabricated charges. This has subsequently led to their being blacklisted in a manner that almost assures they will never work again as a teachers in any setting.
The euphemistically named Student Safety Investigation Team (SSIT) at LAUSD sounds and seems to function in a manner similar to the Committee of Public Safety in the French Revolution – the body that determined who would to be sent to the guillotine. This SSIT “team” now has 15 members, including six full-time investigators, four LA school police, two forensic specialists and one supervising investigator.
The problem here is that SSIT is headed by 30-year LAUSD veteran José Cantu. He is in no way shape or form independent enough from LAUSD to be given the power of sole arbiter as to whether predominantly senior teachers should lose their jobs -- especially when LAUSD has the strong incentive to save $60,000 a year for every top-of-the-salary scale teacher they remove.
One might also note, as past LAUSD Board President Richard Vladovic pointed out that, "No exculpatory evidence of innocence or right-doing is ever presented to the LAUSD Board in actions brought before it to terminate [these expensive teachers]."
So what ensues is a completely one-sided process where files are built that not only fabricate charges against teachers, but also solicit false statements in support of these charges made by LAUSD students and employees seeking to ingratiate themselves with their superiors. They are only too happy to give unverified statements under penalty of perjury as the law requires. But this fact continues to be ignored.
Faced with the daunting task of trying to defend themselves without any help from their union, United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), most teachers are without the financial or emotional ability to sustain and defend themselves for what becomes years against this formidable array of LAUSD power. They jump at the chance to resign when they are told by LAUSD, "We will take no further action against you if you resign." What they don't tell these teachers is that this "no action" might include reporting them to California Teacher Credentialing (CTC), where they could have their credentials suspended or lifted.
But if losing your job or having your credential lifted or suspended in this rigged process is not enough, what subsequently takes place is even worse. As teachers apply for other jobs with other school districts or private schools, they are faced with job application questions that assure they will never work again as teachers. If they answer “yes” to any of them, their application will never make it past the initial screening. If they answer “no” and are ultimately discovered, that is grounds for being fired by a new school.
Common Teacher Job Application Questions:
- Have you ever been discharged, dismissed, or not reemployed for the ensuing school year, pursuant to Education Code Section 44949, from any position because of misconduct or unsatisfactory service?
- Have you ever had a teaching or administrative credential suspended or revoked?
- Have you ever resigned a teaching position or other employment in lieu of disciplinary action?
- Have you ever left a teaching or administrative position without official approval of the governing board?
- Is any adverse action pending against any credential you hold which authorizes public school service or teaching in California or any other state?
What these questions and others like them amount to is a presumption of guilt on the part of a teacher who has never received anything even remotely resembling “due process of law” in determining his or her guilt or innocence. And of course, if a prospective employer calls LAUSD Human Resources, the conversation goes something like this:
New School: “Did Leonard Isenberg ever work at LAUSD?”
LAUSD HR: “Yes.”
New School: “Can you give us the dates?”
LAUSD HR: “Yes, he worked from 1988 until 2010.”
New School: “Can you tell us anything more?”
LAUSD HR: (SILENCE)
So in fact, if you resign, LAUSD will say nothing negative about you...but I don't think the silence is going to get you another job -- no matter how impressive your resume or teaching skills.
(Leonard Isenberg is a Los Angeles observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He’s a second generation teacher at LAUSD and blogs at perdaily.com. Leonard can be reached at Lenny@perdaily.com) Prep editor: Linda Abrams.
Vol 13 Issue 60
Pub: Jul 24, 2015