Backers of a bill headed for the governor's desk that would change teacher discipline rules, especially in cases of abusive teachers, claim it has the support of all key interest groups.
It doesn't. School officials responsible for enforcing the law were kept on the sideline during negotiations and justifiably have withheld support for this weak and very flawed legislation.
Gov. Jerry Brown should veto the bill, AB 215, and insist its author, Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, rewrite it to address very legitimate concerns of school administrators and trustees.
The Legislature's final passage of the bill coincidentally came two days after a recent Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled that state teacher tenure, layoff and dismissal laws unconstitutionally deny low-income and minority students equal access to effective instructors.
But the previously drafted bill does little to address concerns about incompetent teachers. Rather, it focuses on discipline of those who behave inappropriately, another legitimate concern that deserves thoughtful reform.
Buchanan understandably attempted to shorten the time needed to complete the dismissal process. But in doing so she created more roadblocks for school officials trying to rid districts of bad actors.
The bill would establish a new set of expedited suspension and dismissal procedures for teachers who engage in "egregious misconduct," but it would limit the definition to specific child abuse, sexual misconduct and drug cases.
It would not, for example, apply to teachers suspected of violent crimes. While it would immediately remove a teacher charged with murder from the classroom, that provision would first require the filing of criminal charges. Thus, a suspect could remain in the classroom during a police investigation.
Here's another example: Suppose a district attempted to dismiss a teacher for sexual misconduct but an administrative law judge hearing the case issued only a suspension. If there were subsequently another similar incident, the district could not use the prior suspension as evidence in the new case.
Similarly, evidence of past violent behavior that was more than four years old could not be used in proceedings to bolster a dismissal case against a teacher for recent sexual abuse.
In short, the bill starts to extend criminal due process protections to teacher employment cases, even though courts have previously correctly said that the same standards should not apply.
In a court of law, for example, a criminal defendant can remain silent. But in the workplace, and in discipline cases, a worker is expected to explain his or her actions.
The process should be fair, balanced and reasonable, especially when the safety of our children is at stake. This bill does not accomplish that goal and should be vetoed.