Ever since the sickening allegations about Los Angeles Unified School District teacher Mark Berndt (accused of nearly two dozen counts of lewd conduct toward his students) became national news, the district and the media have been consumed with post hoc guilt, anguishing about how such reprehensible behavior could have occurred. Now, a new report in the Los Angeles Times is providing some answers to that question. It turns out that L.A. Unified bargained away its ability to keep track of allegations of misconduct as part of pay negotiations with district teachers.
From the story's lede:
The Los Angeles school district's effort to identify teachers suspected of misconduct has been complicated by a little-known clause in the teachers' contracts that limits how long allegations can remain in a teacher's file.It's hard to know what's more appalling in this parade of horribles: that teachers unions used personnel files as bargaining chips or that the negotiators on the other side of the table took them up on it.
Under the contract, alleged misconduct that does not result in discipline is removed from personnel files after four years. The provision dates to the early 1990s when the L.A. Unified School District agreed to it in exchange for teachers taking a 10% pay cut...
The policy has limited L.A. Unified's ability to deal with misconduct allegations against teachers and weed out potential problem instructors. The most explosive allegations involved former Miramonte Elementary School teacher Mark Berndt, who has pleaded not guilty to 23 counts of lewd conduct for allegedly photographing students blindfolded, gagged and being spoon-fed his semen. Several earlier investigations and complaints about his conduct -- none of which ever resulted in criminal charges or discipline -- were not in his record.