Democrats, Republicans Join Together to Pass Historic Teacher Misconduct Reforms

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PRESS RELEASE

SACRAMENTO – Democrats on the Assembly Education Committee today joined with Republicans to pass historic teacher misconduct reform legislation proposed by Assembly Republicans in response to the recent tragedy at Miramonte Elementary School on a bipartisan vote.  The reforms were first put forward by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the Los Angeles Unified School District.

“It doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat or a Republican, every parent in California was repulsed by the reports of abuse at Miramonte Elementary School,” said Assemblyman Steve Knight, R-Antelope Valley, a joint author of Assembly Bill 2028.  “Parents and students across the state are cheering today’s bipartisan vote to enact these important reforms to protect our kids from classroom predators.  This is just the first of many steps that must be taken to enact these much-needed reforms and prevent a Miramonte-like tragedy from ever happening again.”

The Republican legislation includes two measures.  Assembly Bill 2028 (Knight and Smyth), which was approved by the Assembly Education Committee today, encompasses administrative changes to empower local school districts to respond more effectively to teacher misconduct cases.

As amended in committee, Assembly Bill 2028 would eliminate the 4 year limitation of the use of evidence of prior allegations and allow the dismissal process to begin during summer months. In addition, the Assemblyman committed to work with the committee to see if there are other issues that can reform the process.

In a letter of support for AB 2028 sent to the Assembly Education Committee, Mayor Villaraigosa wrote that, “It is morally imperative that we address the obstacles that make it difficult to fire teachers who commit crimes.  Current dismissal procedures are overly onerous, making it hard to protect our students.  Even in cases when there is overwhelming evidence of abuse, the process is so burdensome that it is often easier for districts to pay teachers to quit…”

Republicans have also introduced Assembly Bill 1681 (Smyth), which is the proposal to strip school employees involved in misconduct cases of their pensions.  This measure will be heard by an Assembly policy committee in the coming weeks.  Identical measures have also been introduced by Senate Republicans.

These measures were crafted in response to recent incidents such as the current scandal surrounding Mark Berndt, a third grade teacher at Miramonte Elementary School investigated by law enforcement for more than two years for lewd acts against his students.  He was arrested earlier this year and charged with 23 counts of lewd conduct.

“When it comes to protecting our kids from dangerous predators, partisan politics must never stand in the way of doing what’s right,” said Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, a joint author of Assembly Bill 2028.  “That’s why we have taken the lead in working with Mayor Villaraigosa and the Los Angeles Unified School District on bipartisan reforms to expedite the removal of classroom predators.  It was great to see Assembly Democrats today set politics aside and work with us to pass these vital reforms to get those who try to harm our kids out of the classroom.”