EDUCATION POLITICS-Last Thursday, the law firm of Geragos & Geragos filed a detailed 91-page cause of action on behalf of nationally acclaimed Hobart Elementary School teacher Rafe Esquith against the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).
More specifically, and in addition to suing LAUSD as a legal entity, the lawsuit also names as individual defendants Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines (photo), LAUSD Chief Legal Officer David R. Holmquist, and 50 “John Does” to be subsequently named after they are identified through the discovery process. This process is now open to the plaintiffs who can finally compel LAUSD administrators and others to tell the truth or face serious and costly (both financial and personal) legal consequences.
In filing this lawsuit, the Geragos firm is in for a pleasant surprise, since it will soon find that LAUSD and its corrupt and long-bullying administration have made no attempt to cover up their reprehensible behavior toward Esquith or any of its other unjustly targeted employees.
The firm will also find out that nobody in the LAUSD administration has ever had any good faith belief that the vast majority of targeted teachers have done anything wrong. Rather, what will become perfectly clear is that, to quote Marlon Brando's Vito Corleone in The Godfather, "It's just business."
As the trial progresses, we will see LAUSD's usual stall tactics fail against the Geragos law firm. These tactics have served them well against defenseless teachers abandoned by their union, UTLA. But Geragos has the bank to go against them toe-to-toe -- and for the long run.
What will become abundantly clear in this first neutral forum that will dispassionately examine LAUSD's claims against its senior teaching staff, is that the charges in the vast majority of cases are completely fabricated. They are based exclusively on the totally illegal motive of targeting teachers at the top of the salary scale – those who are about to vest in expensive lifetime health benefits, and/or are disabled, and/or are teachers like Esquith who stood up against ill-conceived and often downright illegal programs.
Simply stated, LAUSD's witch hunt has been about money. It has had nothing to do with "child safety" as claimed by both Superintendent Cortines and his predecessor and current Broad Foundation employee John Deasey. I cannot help but wonder if John Deasey might become one of the “John Does 1-50” to be named in this lawsuit.
As more evidence is gathered in the Esquith case, a pattern and practice of illegal behavior will clearly emerge and may cause a class action suit to be filed or, at the very least, many more lawsuits like Esquith's. This will reveal that literally thousands of other certificated or classified staff, bullied by LAUSD administrators and their coerced subordinates, have been either forced into early retirement or brought up on false charges.
Where this case is likely to break wide open is when some of the coerced administrators, who work at the behest or under threat from their superiors, finally speak up to save themselves. This includes those who knowingly and with malice aforethought went after completely innocent teachers. Some candidates the Geragos firm might choose to depose are those presently being fired by Superintendent Cortines.
Already, the pleading filed by Geragos & Geragos on behalf of Rafe Esquith shows there is illegal activity alleged and substantiated by thousands of targeted teachers – activity that LAUSD has no evidence to counter.
In fact, evidence convincingly substantiates what the Esquith lawsuit states:
- No exculpatory evidence of teacher innocence or good behavior was allowed to remain in the teacher's file in a one-sided process – this was designed to ultimately get rid of the teacher.
- Teachers were systematically submitted to "psychological torture" in long-term "teacher jail." This “incarceration” had no reason to exist but was a purposefully protracted "investigation process." It was ultimately dispensed with, that is until LAUSD decided to resurrect it against Rafe Esquith.
- There has been complete derogation of the legal standard established in the tragic McMartin Preschool case, where all teachers and administrators were ultimately found completely innocent of wrongdoing. Rules were established concerning what permission must to be obtained from parents prior to student questioning, who was qualified to question students, and setting up the neutrality of questions asked of highly impressionable youth that would guard against ending up with preconceived results.
In the Esquith case and literally thousands like it, LAUSD administrators purposefully chose to ignore these legal standards by interrogating students without parents’ permission, where questions suggested the predetermined answers sought by people – principals -- who were unqualified to question the students that they improperly and illegally manipulated.
- And, in typical bullying behavior, any attempt by Esquith or other targeted teachers to defend themselves against fabricated, disproven charges only seemed to inspire LAUSD in its long established and verifiable practice of piling on more and more serious charges – charges that inexplicably had never been brought until the teachers tried to defend themselves.
But there might just be a silver lining to the regrettable situation in which LAUSD now finds itself.
When one looks at the likely astronomical damages (billions) that LAUSD faces in the Esquith case, and the thousands likely to follow, maybe LAUSD can take a page from the City of Detroit’s bankruptcy: make lemonade out of its lemons.
If LAUSD is ultimately forced into bankruptcy, maybe they would get out of ALL their contractual liability for wages, benefits, and retirement programs. This seems, after all, to have been the reason they started their witch hunt against senior certificated and classified employees in the first place back in 2006.
(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)
Vol 13 Issue 67
Pub: Aug 18, 2015