by Claudia Briggs
Joan Buchanan, Ann Katzburg
“As a child, I was a victim of physical abuse,” shared Shawna Adam, who teaches transitional kindergarten in Hacienda Heights. “Although it pains me, I am sharing my story with lawmakers because I need them to understand the urgency of creating a process that more rapidly handles cases that involve sexual and child abuse.”
More than a dozen educators met with members of the state Senate Education Committee before testifying during the committee’s hearing, urging passage of AB 215 by Assembly Member Joan Buchanan and her principal co-authors, Sens. Lou Correa and Alex Padilla. The bill passed unanimously out of the committee April 30.
AB 215 updates and prioritizes the teacher discipline and dismissal appeal process with the goals of keeping students safe, saving time and money, and ensuring due process rights for educators.
“CTA always supported changes to the dismissal process that protect students and are fair to educators,” said CTA President Dean E. Vogel, noting CTA’s work with a “diverse group of folks who came together for thoughtful changes to the dismissal process that truly make a difference in ensuring student safety without stripping away the professional due process rights our teachers have earned.”
The bill creates a separate hearing process for education employees charged with egregious misconduct, including child abuse, sexual abuse and certain drug offenses.
“As educators, keeping children safe in our classrooms is always a top priority. We want to teach in a safe learning environment for our students, alongside educators who are committed and qualified,” said Linda Ortega, a second-grade teacher at Mount Diablo Elementary School in Clayton. “This bill clarifies current law to ensure educators who engage in egregious misconduct are immediately removed from the classroom, criminally charged, and go through an expedited dismissal process.”
Districts would be required to start egregious misconduct cases within 60 days of a complaint being filed. The case would be heard by an administrative law judge, whose decision would be binding.
“This bill is about priorities and making sure the students we are entrusted to teach come first, while protecting the professional rights of teachers. School districts must handle these cases quickly while following the law,” said Kimberley Gilles, a veteran teacher at Monte Vista High School in Danville, who was recently awarded the NEA Award for Teaching Excellence, a top honor in education. “Providing a safe learning environment is a civil rights issue and why I support streamlining the dismissal process for the sake of our kids.”
You can learn more about the bill at cta.org/ab215.
Check cta.org/legislation for updates on this and other legislative issues.
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