By Victor Skinner
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A year after killing a bill that would have streamlined the firing process for teachers accused of sex or drug acts involving students, state Assembly member Joan Buchanan is proposing her own fix for the lengthy and costly dismissal process.
Buchanan, chairwoman of the Assembly Education Committee, introduced two bills Tuesday that she said would mandate teacher training on child abuse, and cut down the termination process for teachers to a maximum of seven months, EdSource.org reports.
The first bill, AB 1338, would require districts to train teachers about identifying the signs of child abuse and their legal obligation to report it – an issue that has played a significant role in several high-profile cases of educators abusing students.
“A survey of Bay Area school districts published earlier this year by the Contra Costa Times revealed that fewer than half provide annual training to teachers on what they must report and on signs of abuse to look for,” according to the news site.
“Buchanan’s bill would also require school boards to adopt policies on child abuse reporting.”
AB 375 deals with the teacher termination process, and according to EdSource.org, would:
– Require all appeals to be completed in seven months.
– Deny appeals to Superior Court for evidentiary disputes or to challenge a suspension.
– Limit the discovery process.
– Allow both sides to agree to a hearing before an administrative judge instead of the Commission on Professional Competence – a three person panel comprised of two teachers and administrative law judge. That panel has been accused of putting too many dangerous teachers back in classrooms.
– Require suspension of employees charged with certain drug offenses.
Buchanan’s bills come a year after the assemblywoman cast the deciding vote to block legislation proposed by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, that would have limited the appeals process for teachers or school administrators accused of acts involving drugs, sex or abuse against children.
Padilla reintroduced his bill this year as SB 10.
“Buchanan, who was a San Ramon Valley Unified board member for two decades, has maintained the dismissal process can be streamlined without denying core due process rights to teachers,” EdSource.org reports.
One thing contained in both Padilla’s and Buchanan’s bills is a provision to allow evidence dating back longer than four years to be used in termination cases involving child abuse or sexual abuse of a student.