Sen. Steve Knight, R-Antelope Valley, presented his Student Protection Act measure in Senate Education Committee this week. Senate Bill 531 encompasses administrative changes to empower local school districts to respond more effectively to teacher misconduct cases.
Last year’s Miramonte scandal involving teacher Mark Berndt was a rare example of outrageous conduct, and it was addressed through the criminal justice system. This bill will help prevent similar occurrences. SB 531 would aide local school districts in expediting the removal of these classroom predators who want to hurt our kids.
“It doesn’t matter if you are Democrat or Republican, every parent in California was repulsed by the reports of abuse at Miramonte Elementary School,” said Knight. “But it was very disappointing to see Democrats put politics first by rejecting our bipartisan reforms to protect our kids from classroom predators. Parents and students deserve better.”
The overwhelming majority of teachers do an outstanding job to provide a safe, engaging learning environment. This is not about removing due process, but rather providing all pupils the chance to learn from one of California’s many outstanding teachers. Specifically, SB 531:
* Prohibits collective bargaining agreements from expunging an employee’s record at any time.
* Allows school districts to begin the discipline process during summer months.
* Removes the 45 and 90 day requirement for written notice to teachers regarding their dismissal.
* The dismissal hearing decision would consist solely of an administrative law judge, whose decision will only advise, leaving the final dismissal decision to the school district, except in cases of teacher performance.
* Eliminates the 4 year limitation on using evidence of prior allegations in teacher dismissal cases.
“As a former officer with the Los Angeles Police Department, I know firsthand the types of dangerous offenders who are on the streets, preying upon our kids,” continued Knight. “We cannot allow deficiencies in the law to stand in the way of allowing law enforcement and school officials to protect our kids in the classroom.”
This measure would have streamlined the process for suspending or dismissing teachers for unprofessional conduct or unsatisfactory performance (a precursor to replacement with an effective teacher) by returning more control to school districts, reducing mandated timelines, and restructuring the suspension and dismissal hearing processes. The Senate Committee on Education voted with two members supporting, three members opposed and four Senators refusing to cast a vote. By failing to support the Student Protection Act, Senate Democrats reveal that keeping predators out of the classroom is not a priority.
Knight represents California’s 21st Senate District, which includes about half of the Santa Clarita Valley.