wpostServer: http://css.washingtonpost.com/wpost

The Post Most: Local

Answer Sheet
Posted at 12:55 PM ET, 02/07/2012

Sex abuse probe leads to removal of school’s entire staff

The entire staff of a Los Angeles elementary school — teachers, administrators, janitors included — is being removed from the campus and replaced this week after the arrest of two of the school’s veteran teachers who have been accused of sexually abusing students.

Was that the right response to the sordid scandal?

John Deasy, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, announced late Monday that he was closing Miramonte Elementary School for two days and replacing every single adult in the building as a response to the arrests and parent complaints that district officials had been uncommunicative about the investigation.

Some 88 teachers and more than 40 others will start reporting to another building Thursday instead of at Miramonte, which has about 1,400 students, most of them poor Latino immigrants.

All of the new staff members, whom Deasy said have been put through a “very rigorous screening process,” will start work Thursday when the school reopens, the Associated Press reported. Furthermore, a psychiatric social worker will go into every class and work as part of the teaching team, he said in a letter to district employees, the Los Angeles Times reported.

One of the teachers arrested was a 61-year-old who was charged with committing lewd acts on 23 children ages 6 to 10 from 2005 to 2010. The accusations include blindfolding children and feeding them semen on a spoon while telling the youngsters that it was a tasting game, which he captured in photographs, the AP reported. He was actually removed from his classroom a year ago while an investigation into his behavior was conducted, and he is now in jail on $23 million bail; if convicted, he could face life in prison.

A second teacher was arrested on suspicion of fondling two girls in his classroom and was jailed on $2 million bail. The two teachers had taken some of their classes on a few field trips together, the AP reported.

If there are suspicions about any of the other school personnel, they have not been made public. But Deasy said every member of the staff will be questioned.

“We intend to interview every adult, every adult who works at that school, whether they are a teacher or administrator, or whether they are an after-school playground worker or a custodian or a secretary. I mean every single solitary adult who works at Miramonte,” Deasy was quoted as saying to irate parents who packed a high school gymnasium Monday night to hear him.

Parents who complained that the school district had not been forthcoming earlier in the year about the investigation demanded some action be taken to persuade them that their children are safe at the school.

Deasy clearly had to do something dramatic at the school, and he did.

But would it have been better for students to keep the teachers they do have, and add personnel into the school to ease parents’ minds?

Or did Deasey make the right call?

Follow The Answer Sheet every day by bookmarking www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet.

By  |  12:55 PM ET, 02/07/2012

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company