LA Ends 'Teacher Jails,' Lets Suspensions Be Served at Home

Tuesday, 27 May 2014 10:52 AM

By Lisa Degnen

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Nearly 250 suspended Los Angeles teachers will be allowed to stay home instead of having to show up to a district office.

The Los Angeles Times reports that as of Tuesday, those teachers who would have had to report to the offices known as "teacher jails," can now serve out their punishments in the comfort of their own homes.

Many of those teachers face varying charges from abusing students to generally breaking minor rules, but L.A. Unified Superintendent John Deasy ordered the new policy he said to lower the costs of maintaining offices to house delinquent teachers, the paper reports.

"There are costs associated with maintaining employees in a workplace," the LA Times quotes district general counsel David Holmquist as saying. "There are supervision issues. There also are other opportunities to use the space."

He added that it would also "ameliorate some of the horrible conditions that educators face in the actual teacher jail rooms."

The standard practice had been for suspended teachers to report to a non-campus office during the workday, often with very little to do.

The report says that although teachers continue to be paid while suspended, they often consider it "humiliating" to have to have to show up at the "teacher jail" during the suspensions.

The number of suspended teachers in the county sometimes tops 400. The LA Times says the district has been vigilant about removing any teacher suspected of wrongdoing ever since elementary teacher Mark Berndt was arrested in 2012. He pleaded no contest to 23 counts of lewd conduct and received a 25-year prison sentence.

But it’s not fair to paint everyone with the same brush, a teacher's union representative says.

"This new policy does nothing to correct the moral injustices of the teacher jail system," union officer Scott Mandel told the paper. "Innocent teachers are still being removed based on speculation, with few basic legal rights. If anything, all this new policy does is make teacher jail invisible to the public."

Last December, the Los Angeles Daily News reported that LA teachers protested calling for an end to what they termed harassment.

"What used to be a system in which suspected teachers were investigated and reassigned, has become a long, drawn-out process, with educators uncertain of what they are being accused of," United Teachers Los Angeles President Warren Fletcher told the paper. "There are teachers, nurses and counselors being carted off. The system has been perverted."

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