LOS ANGELES (KTLA) — Hundreds of L.A. Unified teachers accused of misconduct are spending their time in so-called “teacher jail,” and it’s costing the district a lot of money.
It’s the LAUSD’s response to the sex abuse scandal that rocked the district earlier this year, when former Miramonte Elementary teacher Mark Berndt was arrested.
Berndt was charged with molesting 23 of students after incriminating photos surfaced showing children blindfolded.
Another teacher, Paul Chapel, was arrested and later sentenced to prison for molesting children at Telfair Elementary in Pomona.
Since then, the L.A. Daily News reports, the district has started enforcing a zero-tolerance policy.
Teachers accused of inappropriate conduct are immediately removed from the classroom and put in “teacher jail” — basically, assigned to desk duty until the investigation is complete.
According to the Daily News, there are some 300 teachers assigned to office duty because of abuse complaints.
Most of the teachers are getting paid, so it’s costing the district about $1.4 million per month in salaries, as well as $865,000 a month in pay for substitute teachers.
The investigations can take as long as six months or more, according to the Daily News.
Teacher’s union president Warren Fletcher says that the process is a waste of money, and he also calls it a witch hunt.
“LAUSD is using the process to get rid of teachers they don’t like or don’t want… when there’s no reasonable belief… that any misconduct occurred,” he told the Daily News.
As an example, one teacher who was assigned to “teacher jail” complained that she was put on office duty for 10 weeks because she accidentally tapped a student on the stomach.
LAUSD Superintended John Deasy says the process is not a witch hunt. He says that it does come at a cost to taxpayers, but it’s necessary to keep students safe.